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Our very first Labour Day

In this edition of Remember This, the Timmins Museum: National Exhibition Centre looks back on how Labour Day was celebrated in the gold fields in the 1920s
1409 - Miners 1920
Six miners, ca. 1920s. Timmins Museum: National Exhibition Centre

From the Timmins Museum: National Exhibition Centre:

Labour Day is celebrated each year in Canada on the first Monday in September. It was originally meant as a day for honouring the achievements of workers, particularly in the improvement of working conditions, but for a number of decades it has merely become a symbol for the end of summer.

The earliest September celebrations in Timmins occurred in 1920. Iroquois Falls held a large-scale event beginning in 1917, and Timmins soon joined in organizing their own. Activities included a horticultural exhibit of flowers and vegetables grown in the region, a Junior Football tournament, a big parade, and stunt flying by the Daredevil Landrigan. The Porcupine Advance notes that the goal of the day was to have the “best possible day of sports and pleasure”.

Most other countries in the world celebrate Labour Day on May 01 and at one point, Timmins was no different. In fact, many of the September celebrations were cancelled due to lack of interest. Strong socialist ties, especially by the Finnish and Ukrainians citizens, meant that the more traditional union-oriented parades and festivities of the May holiday persisted in popularity into the 1930s. Dangerous and unhealthy working conditions were a daily reality at that time when roughly one-third of those working in the Porcupine mines were injured on the job each year. It is no surprise then that labourers were vocal about improving their working conditions and creating a safer environment.  

Each week, the Timmins Museum: National Exhibition Centre provides TimminsToday readers with a glimpse of the city’s past.

Find out more of what the Timmins Museum has to offer at and look for more Remember This? columns here.