Peter J. McGuire Memorial and Gravesite

Peter J. McGuire Memorial Statue in front of  Colonnade
Peter J. McGuire Memorial Statue and Colonnade

Photograph by Robert A. Shinn, courtesy of New Jersey State Historic Preservation Office

Quick Facts
Arlington Park Cemetery, Pennsauken, New Jersey
Social History
Listed in the National Register – Reference number 100003321
Arlington Park Cemetery, Pennsauken, New Jersey
“one day in the year be designated as Labor Day”

The Peter J. McGuire Memorial and Gravesite is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Peter J. McGuire (1852 – 1906) was a figure of major importance in the area of labor history having successfully advocated for an eight-hour work day and has been credited as the father of Labor Day. McGuire founded and led the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America and co-founded and helped lead the American Federation of Labor. 
He joined the Cabinet Makers Union of New York in 1872. Recognizing the need for one international union of woodworkers McGuire called for and led a convention in Chicago in 1881 that formed the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners (Brotherhood), which elected him its first general secretary and retained him in that position until 1901. McGuire probably did more than anyone to convince skeptical, locally minded union activists that a national labor federation was not only necessary but also possible. He co-founded the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Union (FOTLU) and later helped reorganize it into the American Federation of Labor (AFL) in which he served as secretary and vice president between 1886 and 1900. In 1882 he proposed that “one day in the year be designated as Labor Day” --- a lasting and historical memorial to all workers. States first adopted his proposal to create a Labor Day holiday. In 1894, Congress passed an act adopting the first Monday in September as a national holiday. 
McGuire successfully led the fight for the eight-hour work day in 1890. He built his union membership to more than 167,000 members by the end of 1903 to become one of the world’s largest trade unions. McGuire was a remarkable figure, active in most of the significant events of the American labor and socialist movements of the last quarter of the nineteenth century. His list of accomplishments includes: leader of the demonstrations of the unemployed in New York from 1873-74; foremost English-speaking orator of the socialist parties of the 1870s; founder of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters; co-founder and high ranking officer of the American Federation of Labor; outstanding organizer and leader of the eight-hour day movement of 1886 and 1890; and claimant to the title “Father of Labor Day.”

Last updated: August 29, 2019