Skilled Hands, Strong Spirits — Music for Labor Day Weekend

in Daily Programme

by Elrik Merlin on Saturday, 5 September, 2015

Today we are playing music for Labor Day Weekend  in the United States, and it’s interesting to look at the origins of this holiday: much of the rest of the world recognises May Day (May 1st) instead as the day to celebrate labour.

According to Wikipedia, “The first Labor Day in the United States was celebrated on September 5, 1882 in New York City. It became a federal holiday in 1894, when, following the deaths of a number of workers at the hands of the U.S. military and U.S. Marshals during the Pullman Strike, President Grover Cleveland put reconciliation with the labour movement as a top political priority. The September date was chosen as Cleveland was concerned that aligning an American labour holiday with existing international May Day celebrations would stir up negative emotions linked to the Haymarket massacre. All 50 U.S. states have made Labor Day a state holiday.

The form for the celebration of Labor Day was outlined in the first proposal of the holiday: A street parade to exhibit to the public ‘the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations,’ followed by a festival for the workers and their families. This became the pattern for Labor Day celebrations. Speeches by prominent men and women were introduced later, as more emphasis was placed upon the economic and civil significance of the holiday.”

Today we’ll be playing a collection of workers’ songs going back a hundred years, primarily sourced from Britain and the United States, including a significant collection of archive recordings, such as The Land Song, a Georgist and later Liberal Party song from the 19th century, and recordings issued by Lansbury’s Labour Weekly in 1927 (British Labour Party MP George Lansbury is seen here, addressing a meeting). In addition you’ll hear a number of protest songs including some unique material from the Women’s Suffrage movement in the US.

Today’s programme is presented by Elrik Merlin. If you are in the United States or Canada, please click here to launch the Stream Licensing player. To listen from outside North America, click here to start your player .

This programme is also available in enhanced‐quality AAC. Tune in here:


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