Labor Day Challenge Coins

Commemorating the American labor movement and U.S. workers

On the first Monday in September, the United States celebrates Labor Day. The federal holiday was instituted to honor the American labor movement and the contributions of laborers to the development of the United States.

The holiday dates to the late nineteenth century. Labor activists of the time pushed for a federal holiday that acknowledged the workers of America and their effect on the country's prosperity. Labor Day became a federal holiday in 1894, though it was recognized by labor activists and individual states in various municipalities in the years before. 

Labor Day has a rich history and some great traditions that carry on to this day. For many Americans, the three-day weekend symbolizes the unofficial end of summer, filled with parties, parades, and other events. What better way to observe Labor Day than with custom challenge coins? Pass them out at special Labor Day events, present them to employees who go above and beyond, or create your own end-of-summer challenge coin for your friends and family.

Labor Day History

We celebrate Labor Day to acknowledge laborers across the country. The push for Labor Day began in one of American labor history’s most challenging times. During the Industrial Revolution, U.S. laborers worked an average of 12-hour days, seven days a week, just to earn enough for a basic living. Children worked in mills, factories, and mines across the country despite restrictions, earning much less than their adult counterparts. Many workers faced unsafe working conditions and unsanitary facilities.

As manufacturing increased, labor unions began to grow and speak out about working conditions across the country. The unions organized strikes and rallies around the country, some of which were the start of long-standing traditions. One notable event was the Haymarket Riot in Chicago in 1886. The event started as a peaceful rally supporting workers. An unidentified person threw a bomb at police officers who were dispersing the rally. The bomb blast and subsequent gunfire resulted in the deaths of seven police officers and at least four civilians, and wounded more than seventy others.

Four years before the Haymarket Riot, on September 5, 1882, thousands of workers took unpaid time off to march from City Hall to Union Square in New York City, marking the first Labor Day parade in U.S. history. The idea of Labor Day began to catch on in industrial centers across the country. In 1894, the Pullman Palace Car Company employees in Chicago went on strike. Workers protested wage cuts and the firing of union representatives.

On June 26, the American Railroad Union called for a boycott of all Pullman railway cars, bringing railroad traffic to a halt across the country. The federal government dispatched troops to Chicago, and a wave of riots resulted throughout the city. In the wake of the unrest, Congress passed an act making Labor Day a legal holiday in the District of Columbia and the territories.

Who Proposed Labor Day?

It's unclear who first proposed the holiday for workers, but two individuals have solid claims to the founding of Labor Day. 

In 1882, Peter J. McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and a co-founder of the American Federation of Labor, suggested a day that honored the laboring classes. Some believe, however, that machinist Matthew Maguire founded the holiday that same year as secretary of the Central Labor Union in New York. Both Maguire and McGuire attended the country’s first Labor Day parade in New York City that year.

The holiday gradually spread across the country. Oregon became the first state to make Labor Day an official public holiday in 1887. By 1894, thirty states were officially celebrating the day. President Grover Cleveland signed a law making a federal holiday in 1894. The federal law only made it a holiday for federal workers, though all states eventually officially recognized and observed it.

Celebrating Labor Day

We celebrate Labor Day for many reasons and in different ways. For many, it's a day to spend time away from work with friends and family. Cities around the country host parades and special events to commemorate the day.

Labor Day is full of tradition, including fairs, parades, and other unique events. A few notable events include the Labor Day Carnival in New York City and fireworks over Coney Island. The Labor Day Concert at the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C. is a popular event that features the National Symphony Orchestra. Around the country, folks will hit the beach one last time before fall, enjoy a barbeque with friends and family, and embrace that time off. 

Custom challenge coins memorialize those special moments perfectly. Whether you create coins to honor the history of Labor Day or something that represents an annual trip to the beach, a custom coin is a small keepsake with significant meaning.

Labor Day Challenge Coins

A well-designed challenge coin is a perfect way to mark any occasion. Special Labor Day celebrations are an excellent opportunity to create a meaningful challenge coin. If you are hosting an event, a concert, or a parade, these unique keepsakes remind attendees of the memorable occasion. 

Labor Day challenge coins are ideal for businesses and brands too. Present them to employees as a thank you for their hard work and dedication throughout the year. Pass them out to supervisors and managers for leading the team, or to vendors who work tirelessly to keep supplies stocked. 

Challenge coins can be made to your specifications. Add a personal touch with logos and emblems, including text and features such as special dates, locations, and more. Include details that represent Labor Day and the purpose of the day. Honor the past with significant elements and create an outstanding design that recipients will display and carry with pride.

Custom challenge coins tell a story. Labor Day provides plenty of inspiration to create a brilliant design. From its past and honoring the laborers that helped build our country to marking the end of summer, Labor Day is a day of celebration. 

The pride of our country’s workers inspires many of the challenge coins we design. We take the same pride when designing custom challenge coins. Find out more about designing custom challenge coins, and let us create the perfect challenge coins for your Labor Day celebrations.


Jesse Daugherty

Jesse Daugherty


Hello, I'm Jesse Daugherty, a music enthusiast, sports aficionado, and an avid supporter of the arts. I'm a writer and content creator. For the past 5 years, I've shared my knowledge of custom challenge coins and other promotional products, exploring their designs, meaning, and purpose.