Labor Day came about as a result of a railroad workers strike that began as an action against the Pullman Palace Car Company in 1894. The strike became so crippling to commerce that the administration of President Grover Cleveland obtained an injunction to force strikers to cease their activities and return to work. Thousands of US Marshals and 12,000 U S Army troops were called up to enforce the injunction. In the ensuing violence 30 strikers were killed and 57 were injured. As a conciliatory measure after the deaths, Congress voted to add Labor Day to the calendar of national holidays. The measure was signed by the President six days after the strike ended.
When I was growing up, Labor Day marked the end of summer and the return to school. Everyone vacated summer rentals at the Jersey Shore and our mothers retired their white shoes and handbags until Memorial Day of next year. These days Labor Day has lost much of its landmark status. There’s more flexibility in the school calendar. Many children will have been back in the traces for two weeks or more by the time the September holiday rolls around. But among the restauranteurs and hoteliers in tourist towns, Labor Day still marks the end of their most intense season, heralding a more relaxed dinner hour and lighter occupancies. For the innkeeping couple in Baggage, our Holiday Homicide for September, the change of season marks an end to life as they knew it.