Happy near end of summer, blogsters. You no doubt have heard that it’s been a record-breaking season for wildfires here in Washington State. Precious lives have been lost, including those of three young firefighters who’ve received national attention for their bravery in the line of duty. Thousands of acres of forestland (equal in size to Rhode Island!) have been scorched east of the Cascades–a heart-breaking spectacle to fathom for those of us who live in the region.
It’s rare when Seattleites wish for rain. This, regrettably, is one of those times…☁
Above (L)), President Grover Cleveland; (R) illustration 1984 Pullman strike.
With this year’s Labor Day soon upon us, Wordsmith Maggie thought it appropriate to review the history behind the unofficial end of summer American holiday observance. To wit, the following abbreviated version of http://www.dummies.com‘s “Labor Day and the Pullman Strike” posting by Andrew Hollandbeck reminds us of its mostly forgotten/confused origins. Wis. Gov. Scott Walker, take note…
Although [Labor Day] is ostensibly meant to celebrate the civic and economic contributions of American workers, it is also connected historically to workers’ repression and political appeasement.
Exactly who first came up with the idea of Labor Day is unclear, but two stories are at the front of the running”
– In the first story, Peter McQuire, cofounder of the American Federation of Labor (AFL) and general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners, first suggesting a Labor Day holiday to honor those whose sweat and toil created the country’s prosperity.
– In the second story, the holiday was conceived by machinist Matthew Maguire in 1882, while he served as secretary of the Central Labor Union (CLU) of New York. Documents show that the CLU adopted a Labor Day proposal and created a planning committee for a demonstration and picnic.
Regardless of whose idea it was, the first Labor Day was celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882, in New York City. Two years later, the first Monday was chosen as the holiday, and the CLU urged other organizations to begin observing it officially.
Meanwhile, near Chicago, George Pullman founded Pullman, Illinois, in 1880. The entire town was designed and built to house employees of Pullman’s railroad sleeping car manufacturing company.
All was well with the Pullman Company until an economic depression swept the country in 1893. In response to a falling demand for sleeper cars, Pullman began lowering wages, but rental costs in the “company town” (which were controlled by and automatically paid to the Pullman Company) remained unchanged. Faced with plummeting wages, Pullman employees began walking off the job.
Eugene V. Debs and the American Railway Union (ARU) picked up the cause, and soon thereafter railroad workers across the U.S. were boycotting trains that carried Pullman cars.
President Grover Cleveland, citing the now delayed mail system, declared the strike illegal and sent 12,000 troops to break it. Two men were killed in the violence that erupted near Chicago. Debs was sent to prison, and the ARU was disbanded. Pullman employees henceforth were required to sign a pledge that they would never again unionize.
Sensing the political unease caused by his anti-labor stance during the Pullman strike, President Cleveland put reconciliation with labor forces at the top of his to-do list. Labor Day legislation was rushed through Congress [good luck trying that today!], and passed unanimously on June 28, 1894, just six days after the end of the Pullman strike.
So, be sure to pay homage to those early strikers who lead the way to your (hopefully paid!) Labor Day holiday…
Surf & Turf?
Speaking of paying tribute to hard-working folk, Seattle’s own Ivar Haglund was one of the most memorable (and funniest) of ’em all. If you’re looking for something to do with the family as the summer season winds down, visit Ballard’s Nordic Heritage Museum for an exhibit that tells the story of the man who put locally-sourced seafood on the map in the Pacific Northwest and on millions of peoples’ plates.
Here’s how KUOW’s David Hyde explains the legendary self-promoting “foodie” from back in the day:
Think of a simpler Seattle in 1938. No Jeff Bezos, no Bill Gates, no dawn to dusk traffic jam. Instead there was Ivar Haglund, restaurateur and showman with a penchant for the preposterous.
Haglund opened his first restaurant on the Seattle waterfront in 1938 (today the chain has more than two dozen outlets). He could be thought of as part Jack Kerouac meets P.T. Barnum, with a little Burl Ives and a little Woody Guthrie thrown in, according to KUOW’s Knute Berger, whom Hyde interviewed for Curbed Seattle.
“You know Seattle has had these little heroes come along,” Berger said. “People love these stories about the little guy who makes it, sort of spitting in the eye of the establishment..”
Berger said Haglund was perfectly positioned for a changing Seattle.
“There was a burgeoning middle class in Seattle–people’s whose dads worked at Boeing–and so the waterfront was transitioning from a working-class place to a place of recreation for Seattle’s middle class, and Ivar was right on the wave.”
So What will people find in the exhibit? There’s a photo of Ivar feeding a seal–a restaurant attraction where Berger said he got his fingers nipped as a boy. And then there’s the ‘sports model clam gun–basically a hunting rifle with a shovel instead of a barrel. [Today’s NRA would definitely disapprove!]
“So this is supposed to be a patent-pending invention of how to go about it,” Berger said. “[It] even has a little horn on it like a bicycle horn so you can make noise, I guess, when you get your clam. The people who came to Ivar’s had weekend places on Hood Canal. They would look at that clam gun and they would laugh, but they would also know what it’s like when you’re hunting clams and digging with that shovel really fast.”
And what would Ivar Haglund, who died in 1985, say about the Seattle of 2015?
“I think he would think Seattle was probably taking itself too seriously,” Berger said. “I think he’d be trying to get us to lighten up and laugh at ourselves. Seattle sometimes has a hard time laughing at itself.”
The Nordic Heritage Museum is located 3024 NW 67th Street. Hours are 10 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and noon to 4:00 p.m., Sunday.