Labor Day 1916

Another Labor Day has arrived, closing the summer season of 2016. However, Labor Day was celebrated as early as the 1880s to recognize the American labor movement, but it didn’t become a national holiday until 1894.

Labor Day Postcard
Source: My Personal Collection

Labor conditions remained difficult for many, but were especially hard on children, who often were sent to work in factories, mines and other settings instead of attending school.

Where did the United States stand on child labor one hundred years ago? Congress passed the Keating-Owen Child Labor Act of 1916 largely in response to photographer Lewis Hine’s work exposing working conditions of young children. This act prohibited interstate commerce of products made by children younger than 14 fourteen, or items made in factories where children 14-16 years old worked for more than eight hours a day, overnight, or more than sixty hours a week!

These children often worked in dangerous settings. They didn’t attend school because their parents needed the extra income that their labor brought in. They were not only growing up illiterate, but they often had health issues because of the work environment. If they weren’t injured or killed on the job, they often had health issues caused by the work environment.

The Keating-Owen Act, also called Wick’s Bill, was declared unconstitutional by the U.S Supreme Court only nine months after it was passed. The court decided that the federal government had no right to interfere in internal work rules of these companies. That’s quite astounding to think about today.

Enjoy your Labor Day holiday, but remember the sacrifices our ancestors made, hoping for a better future.

One thought on “Labor Day 1916”

  1. I have been sitting here with my coffee this morning trying to remember any one in my family tree that was especially involved in the work of forming unions that might make for a Labor Day Blog. Most of my family were either farmers or preachers. Although there was someone in the mining areas. I will check him out.

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