Labor Day Parade, 1920, photographer unknown, published in Labor Herald, Sep. 25, 1920, courtesy of the RochesterLabor

"Walking itself is not an educator," AFL president Samuel Gompers noted in 1893, "but the parade on Labor Day is a protest against wrong, and an educator to many thousands of men who will read of the buoyant spirit and the manly bearing of the toilers in their march. . . . There is something to contemplate," he added, "in the parades of the toiling men taking place all over the country at the same time." (SG to Frank Rist, July 10, 1893)

Take a look at these newspapers reports of early Labor Day parades to see how the holiday has changed over time, how working people presented themselves to the public, and what the newspapers had to say about them.
Overview: 1886 , 1888

New York City: 1883 , 1884, 1885, 1886

Boston: 1886 #1, 1886 #2, 1894, 1897, 1898 ,1898 #2

Baltimore: 1889 , 1890, 1892

For the AFL's view of the importance of parades see Shall Labor Day Become a Mere Holiday? and a 1916 AFL convention report on the issue. And for a look at how one local council staged Labor Day parades, see the Rochester Labor Council's history of parades in that western New York city.