News of the Week, Labor Day

Labor Day was first recognized in the United States through city ordinances passed in 1885 and 1886. Although New York first proposed a day for a state holiday, Oregon was the first state to pass a bill establishing the holiday in 1887. In 1894 Congress created a national holiday establishing the first Monday of September as a legal holiday to pay tribute to the contributions of workers of America. Brief mentions of a Labor Day picnic at “The Oaks” or, in 1905, at the Lewis and Clark Exposition grounds, or other local picnics appear in the local newspapers, but no real local celebration is held until after the turn of the century…

Oregon City Courier, September 9, 1898
Monday, Labor Day, was not generally observed as a legal holiday in Oregon City. The county, justice and police courts and post office were the only establishments that had any particular veneration for Labor Day. The sheriff’s office continued to take in tax money, but no legal papers were issued.

Oregon City Enterprise, September 6, 1901
Monday was Labor Day and was not generally observed in this city. The court house was closed and the banks were open until noon.

By the next year things changed as the result of the first Labor Day proclamation by an Oregon governor since the holiday was established in 1887.

The Oregonian, August 14, 1902

Whereas, The Legislature of Oregon has set apart the Monday in September of each year as a legal holiday to be known as Labor Day. Therefore, I, T. T. Geer, Governor of said state, do hereby recommend that all places of business be closed on Monday, September 1, 1902, and that the day be devoted to an observance of such exercises as may contribute to a better understanding between labor and capital, the great moving force between behind modern industrial development, and it is especially urged that employers cooperate with their employees in a mutual observance of the day in such manner as will fittingly recognize the reliance that each must place upon the other before the best result from both may be expected or attained. In testimony whereof I have hereunto set my hand and caused the great seal of the state to be affixed hereto. Done at the Capitol in the City of Salem, this 13th day of August, A. D. 1902. T. T. Geer, Governor.

Oregon City Enterprise, September 5, 1902
The streets of Oregon City were thronged with an enthusiastic and interested lot of people Monday, who had come from all parts of the surrounding country to witness the parade and other festivities which took place in celebration of Labor Day which was celebrated for the first time in the history of Oregon as a legalized holiday by proclamation, and for the first time in the history of Oregon City was observed upon such an extensive scale. We are pleased to be able to note that nothing occurred to mar the pleasures of the day and the extreme promptness with which each event took place, considering it it have been the first attempt in that character of celebrations, much credit is reflected upon those in whose charge the affair was.


Parade, Main Street at Sixth. Taken before 1919.

The parade, which was the principal feature of the day’s observance, was formed near the Armory, on Main Street, marching north several blocks, then counter marching, continuing on to Canemah Park. It started at 10:20, headed by the committee in charge, accompanied by the police force, followed by the G. A. R. Next was the Woodmen band of this city. The parade was about five blocks long, and was composed of all of the labor union organizations of the city, besides floats or wagons of nearly all the business houses.

The approximate number of people in the parade was 600, a very creditable showing, considering the fact that it was the first effort to celebrate the day.
Next in line of march was Mayor Grand B. Dimick, Ed Olds, of the Federal Union, and Hon. J. T. Morgan, of Portland, orator of the day, in a carriage. Seated on a high float, handsomely garbed, was Miss Stella Nichols, the Goddess of Labor. In the four corners of the float were small children representing the different trades unions of Oregon City. After the goddess came the liberty car, loaded with pretty young girls dressed in white. The Textile Workers’ Union of America came next, and made a creditable showing. The painters and carpenters followed in their floats which were loaded with their outfits.

Federal Labor Union, No. 9768, which followed the painters’ float, made an excellent showing, their line of march being over two blocks long. Following was the Retail Clerks’ Union. The Milwaukie Brass Band led the second division, which was mostly of floats. Among them were the Women of Woodcraft, the Maccabees, Woodmen and A. O. U. W. The Maccabees’ Quartet was in a carriage, which followed by the overland stage, which was one of the features of the parade. Cowboys and redmen in costume followed. In the rear of the parade were floats by the different business houses of Oregon City.

At the park Hon. J. T. Morgan spoke to an attentive crowd for some time on the benefits of organized labor, after which the sports began, continuing throughout the day. The principal feature of the amusements was the ball game between the Oregon City and Portland teams, the former defeating the visitors by a score of 9 to 1.
The prize awarded was captured by Webb Burns, who was the best mounted and equipped cowboy.

At about noon several hundred people partook of luncheon at the park, and dancing was indulged in during the afternoon and evening, the festivities closing with a grand display of fireworks in the evening.
Thus, the first effort of organized labor in Oregon City to appropriately celebrate what has become a national holiday proved a great success.

With war in Europe and a possible railroad strike to begin on Labor Day, 1916 did not bring a large public event. The only mention of the day was brief…

Oregon City Courier, August 31, 1916
The week-end at Wilhoit Springs will be the biggest event of the season Sunday and Monday. District Attorney Gilbert L. Hedges is to be the speaker at the Springs Monday afternoon at 2:00 o’clock. Many Oregon City and Clackamas County people are planning a week-end attendance at the popular resort and many auto trips are being planned from here. Other features will make a most enjoyable two days for Sunday and Labor Day. Mr. Hedges’ subject has not been announced at this time.

Unfortunately, no one ever did find out what District Attorney Hedges’ address would be…

Oregon City Courier, September 7, 1916
District Attorney Prevented From Filling Speaking Engagement
The entirely unreasonable action of the mechanical driving power of a certain well known vehicle caused the absence of District Attorney Gilbert L. Hedges from a Labor day meeting which he was to address at Wilhoit Springs. Mr. Hedges, with Mrs. Hedges and daughters, as guests in the S. O. Dillman automobile, made a very auspicious start toward Wilhoit from their homes here on Monday morning.
“Somewhere in Clackamas County,” this side of Molalla, the car balked. Mr. Hedges scouted the idea of building a fire under the machine, although he well knew that this was an effective expedient with a balky horse, and the gentlemen of the party had to content themselves by coaxing the machine. Several hours of vain labor were spent in this way and finally the machine arrived at Molalla. There Mr. Hedges and Mr. Dillman worked for several hours before they found the trouble and started back to Oregon City. In the meantime the district attorney had communicated with Wilhoit and called the meeting off.


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