Made in the USA: The Evolution of American Labor

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Labor Day
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Made in the USA: The Evolution of American Labor

Eight-year-old Emma Kelly picks shrimp from 3 a.m. until 4 p.m. in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi in 1911.

(Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, National Child Labor Committee Collection)

A steel worker in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 

(Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA/OWI Collection)

Fernance Silvia, a 7 year old newsie, would sell papers until 8 p.m. some nights.

New Bedford, August 22, 1911.

(Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, National Child Labor Committee Collection)

Children waiting to be smuggled in Winchendon, Massachusetts in 1911.

(Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, National Child Labor Committee Collection)

A worker in an Illinois Steel Mill

(Stanley Kubrick, photographer, LOOK Magazine Photograph Collection, Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division)

Rosie the Riveter

(AP Photo/Joan Seidel, File)

Children going to work at the Chesapeake Knitting Mills in Berkley, VA on June 15, 1911.

(Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, National Child Labor Committee Collection)

As in the sub-assembly departments, men and women work together in the final assembly of North American P-51 Mustang fighters.

(Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA/OWI Collection)

With so many working aged men fighting in WWII, women, who had long been denied rights in the workplace, received the opportunity to assist the war effort and change attitudes in American workplaces.

( Alfred T. Palmer, United States. Office of War Information. Bureau of Public Inquiries, Library of Congress)

Women at work on bomber, Douglas Aircraft Company, Long Beach, California 1939

(Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA/OWI Collection)

Five-year-old picks shrimp in 1911.

(Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, National Child Labor Committee Collection)

Georgia turpentine worker skins bark from a tree, 1937.

(Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA/OWI Collection)

Young Boys work in a textile factory

(Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, National Child Labor Committee Collection)

Young boys working at a cigarette factory on June 6, 1911 in Danville, Virginia.

(Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, National Child Labor Committee Collection)

Though much of his legacy is marred by steel mill wage and safety strife, Andrew Carnegie's Steel Company was a major force in America's industrial boom. Later in his life, Carnegie devoted himself to philanthropy, building libraries and universities across the country.

(Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division)

Senator George W. Norris of Nebraska and Representative Fiorello H. La Guardia of New York, both Republicans, were the chief sponsors of the Norris- La Guardia Act that created an avenue for workers at the time to unionize peacefully.

(Library of Congress)

Young workers in the Stearns Silk Factory in Petersburg, Virginia in 1911.

(Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, National Child Labor Committee Collection)

Child protesters in New York

(Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division)

Shots of the young workers going in to Ayer Mill

Location: Lawrence, Massachusetts.

( Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, National Child Labor Committee Collection)

Young workers leave a mill at Sagamore Manufacturing Company on August 26, 1911 in Fall River, Massachusetts.

( Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, National Child Labor Committee Collection)

1915 Labor Day Parade

(Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division)

1909 Labor Day Parade

(Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division)

Bakers carry loaves of bread in the parade in 1909

(Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division)

Members of the oil workers union in front of their headquarters, Seminole, Oklahoma

(Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA/OWI Collection)

Veteran oil worker, now a peddler, Seminole, Oklahoma

(Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA/OWI Collection)

Migratory worker in auto camp. "Them WPAs are keeping us from a living. They oughtn't to do it. It ain't fair in no way. The government lays them off (that is in Work Projects Administration - 1939) and they come in because they're locals and take the jobs away from us that never had no forty-four dollars a month. I came out of Pennsylvania, used to be an oil worker. I'm getting along in years now and I seen lots of presidents and lots of systems. Voted for Roosevelt both times and I don't know of any president that ever leaned toward the laboring man like him, but this system they've got here in the fruit is a rotten system the way they work it." Yakima Valley, Washington

(Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA/OWI Collection)

Women war workers

(Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA-OWI Collection)

Oil worker, Salem, Illinois

(Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA/OWI Collection)

Sugarcane worker, Louisiana

(Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA/OWI Collection)

Mexican carrot worker, Edinburg, Texas

(Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA/OWI Collection)

Migratory worker. Robstown camp, Texas

(Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA/OWI Collection)

Zinc smelter worker. Picher, Oklahoma

(Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA/OWI Collection)

Turpentine worker. DuPont, Georgia

(Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA/OWI Collection)

Steel worker. Midland, Pennsylvania

(Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA/OWI Collection)

Workers on top of a building under construction 

(Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, photograph by Harris & Ewing)

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By JEFF IHAZA

For most Americans, Labor Day is little more than the unofficial end of summer -- a nice break from the work week that recharges them for the days ahead. It wasn't always that easy though. During the nation's younger days, ideas like a minimum wage, an 8-hour work day and protections for working children were still being fought over. In fact, Labor Day as a holiday is the product of a series of efforts from labor unions across the country toward the end of the 19th century.

Nowadays, we celebrate Labor Day on the first Monday of September -- but the first Labor Day was actually celebrated on a Tuesday, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. In 1882, the Central Labor Union in New York City organized a celebration on September 5th. After two years of simply using September 5th as the holiday, the first Monday in September was designated as the official "workingmen's holiday."

This isn't to suggest that Labor Day didn't face its detractors. On September 4th, 1887, the New York Times published a scathing article titled "Labor Day and Idle Saturday" in which the author wrote "It is silly to set apart a day on which no labor is to be done as Labor Day." Nonetheless, the idea of setting aside the first Monday in September as a holiday for workers eventually caught on across the nation.

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