Foundry workers

Workers at the Armstrong Company Foundry around 1910.

A: The idea of celebrating a holiday for workingmen caught on slowly in the United States. But eventually, the first Monday in September became a federal holiday in 1894. In Cecil County the workingman’s day was celebrated a few years earlier, Port Deposit observing it in 1891. On that Monday in September 1891, trains brought visitors from near and far to town, the arriving visitors noticing that many homes were decorated with American flags.

Weeks earlier, all the manufacturing interests, had decided to give employees the day off. Serving as chief marshal for the grand parade, James Rice of the Stonecutters’ Union of Port Deposit, led four divisions representing the different workingmen’s societies: The Stonecutters’ Union, along with the Riverside Cornet Band and a float drawn by eight horses displaying specimens of Port Deposit cut granite, headed the procession. They were joined by the Iron Moulder’s Union No. 211 with 75 men, the Iron Moulders’ of Perryville No. 210 with float and 29 men, and the drillers and quarrymen of Port Deposit with 300 men headed by the Rising Sun Cornet Band.

After marching through town, everyone assembled at Happy Valley where James Duncan of Baltimore, president of the Federation of Labor, spoke about the need for laboring men to organize. William. J. T. Cooney of the Typographical Union No. 12 of Baltimore advised the union to look after nominees for Congress and the legislature and not to vote for men who would not legislate for laboring men. Lewis Garbie of New York addressed the audience in English and Italian, much to the delight of many in the crowd. In the procession were a large number of African-Americans and the union president in his address welcoming all nationalities and colors.

— Mike Dixon

Do you have a question about Cecil County that the Historical Society of Cecil County’s panel of experts might be able to answer? Send them to history@cecilwhig.com.

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