By 1916, Labor Day had come to be a well-established holiday in Columbus, as it was in most of the rest of the nation.

By 1916, Labor Day had come to be a well-established holiday in Columbus, as it was in most of the rest of the nation.

Columbus was not considered to be an extraordinarily pro-labor town, as was the case with some larger industrial cities in America. Nevertheless, Ohio's capital had a long history of labor organization.

As early as the 1830s, local typesetters had organized as a union, and local "mechanics" were meeting regularly at their Mechanics Hall in downtown Columbus.

We should note that the word mechanic in the 1830s meant anyone who used tools to make something. By that definition, even in a town of a few thousand people such as Columbus at the time, there were a relatively large number of these people.

As Columbus became a center of transportation and trade, it also became the home of more and more workers in those industries. Columbus saw its share of unrest in the Great Railroad Strike of 1877 and in the 1910 Streetcar Strike.

But as a rule, Columbus developed a reputation as a place where laboring people could meet and organize because of its easy access by road and rail. The American Federation of Labor was founded here in 1886, and the United Mine Workers of America was formed in Columbus in 1890.

A few years earlier in 1882, labor leaders in New York City took a cue from their neighbors in Canada and organized a holiday for working people on the first Monday in September. The idea caught on and by 1894, Labor Day was a national holiday.

In Columbus in 1916, Labor Day was celebrated as it was in most other American cities: with a parade and a picnic.

A local newspaper described the events. "Organized labor of Columbus held its annual labor day parade Monday morning, preceding a celebration at the Columbus Driving Park."

From the 1870s until well into the 20th century, the East Side neighborhood today called Driving Park was the home to a racetrack of the same name.

"Several thousand workers, many of them clad in blue overalls and working caps, others dressed in white duck uniforms, marched to the music of a half-dozen bands. George Compson, president of the federation, and William Slack, Democratic candidate for Sheriff, rode on horses at the head of the parade, while C.P. Reed, general chairman for the day, led a group of 80 little girls dressed in white and carrying red, white and blue parasols. Burke's Band followed.

"More than 100 machinists in natty blue overalls and working caps led the delegations of workers. Members of the Typographical union, the printing pressmen and the barbers were in the first division.

"The second division was made up of unions in the building trades. Plumbers were attired in white uniforms. One hundred colored bricklayers appeared in their uniforms.

"More than 100 iron moulders in white duck uniforms led the third division.

"Several hundred brewery workers, all uniformed, featured the fourth division.

"The Switchmen's union was the only railroad organization represented in the parade. They were the fifth division.

"The Cook's and Waiter's unions and members of the Bartender's union rode in automobiles at the end of the parade.

"Starting from Main and High Streets, the line of march of the parade was north on High to Chestnut, countermarching on High to Livingston Avenue where many of the marchers took cars to Driving Park.

"Boxing contests, mule races, motor bike races, greased pole contests and other stunts were on the program for the afternoon."

All of this was accompanied by personal appearances and speeches by candidates running for one office or another. It was, after all, a presidential election year.

At the end of the day, many people enjoyed the picnic dinner they had brought with them or bought food from stands. In the evening, there were concerts by local musicians and a fireworks exhibition.

For the rest of the people of central Ohio who did not attend organized Labor Day activities, this was a nice three-day weekend as well. Most local restaurants and theaters were open on Labor Day, and the two major amusement parks -- Olentangy Park and Indianola Park -- were open. Many neighborhoods also had events of their own.

But by 1916, Labor Day had come to signify something else. Ancient people in much of the world paid special attention to the days when solstices marked the change of season. In the modern age, that had been less the case. In America in 1916, most informed people knew that the solstice would not occur until late in September. But for many people, Labor Day marked the end of the summer.

In much of America, summer vacation was over and school was beginning once again. Baseball season was ending and football season was beginning. And in 1916, if not today, Labor Day was the last acceptable day to wear white or seersucker.

One hundred years ago, Labor Day was warm, sunny and pleasant. And while much of the world was engaged in World War I, America was still at peace.

Local historian and author Ed Lentz writes the As it were column for ThisWeek News.