Before Labor Day became a U.S. federal holiday, it was celebrated in the late 19th century by activists and individual states, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
Oregon was the first state to pass a law creating a holiday marking the achievements and contributions of workers in 1887. It was followed that same year by Massachusetts, Colorado, New York and New Jersey. Near the close of the 19th century, as the American labor movement gained strength, Congress passed an act making Labor Day an official federal holiday, celebrated on the first Monday in September. President Grover Cleveland signed the bill into law in 1894.