The new exhibition at the Grove City Welcome Center and Museum is designed to serve in part as a history lesson.

Timed to coincide with the observance of Labor Day, the exhibition provides information about how the holiday began.

"For a lot of people, Labor Day marks the end of the summer; it's when the pool closes and students have gone back to school," said Don Ivers, the visitor host and guide at the museum, 3378 Park St.

"But there is a purpose to the holiday. I'm not trying to be controversial, but I think that meaning gets lost with all the picnics and cookouts," he said.

"People should remember that Labor Day was started by the labor unions as a way to honor workers and what they contribute to nation," Ivers said. "We all work hard, and this is a day set aside to reflect on the fact that what we earn doesn't come from nothing. It comes from the sweat of our brow."

The first Labor Day observance was held in 1882 in New York City, he said.

On Sept. 5, 1882, 10,000 workers took unpaid time off to march from City Hall to Union Square in New York City, holding the first Labor Day parade in U.S. history, according to

Just who came up with the idea for the holiday is in dispute, Ivers said.

"Some records indicate it was Peter McGuire, who was general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners, who was the first to propose a day to honor workers," he said. "But some say it was actually Matthew Maguire. He was the secretary of the International Association of Machinists.

"You'll find research and records that makes the case for each man," Ivers said.

Along with the information about the holiday, the new exhibit offers details about some of the businesses that called Grove City home during the community's early decades.

"We had a sawmill, a grist mill, a brick and tile factory, canneries and a number of companies related to farming and agriculture," Ivers said.

"There was even a mushroom plant, a dark building where they grew commercial mushrooms. It was apparently located off of Front Street," he said. "There are a lot of early businesses in Grove City that most people have no idea existed."

At one time, at least five dairies were located in the Grove City area, including White's, Tri-Maple, Westbrook, Woodside and A.R. McClish, Ivers said.

Circa 1903, Grove City was home to two banks -- the Grove City Savings Bank and the Farmers and Merchants bank, which later changed its name to the First National Bank.

"That sounds more bank-like," Ivers said.

The museum's exhibits often feature a theme tied to the time of the year.

Later this fall, the museum will offer a display of uniforms and memorabilia collected by local residents Grover Davis and Albert Smith, both of whom served in World War I.

"Nov. 11 will mark the 100-year anniversary of the armistice that ended the First World War," Ivers said. "It's a fitting time to remember and honor our local residents who served in that conflict."

The museum is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays, with extended hours until 8 p.m. Tuesdays. Admission is free.

The historical society will hold its next open house from 1 to 5 p.m. Sept. 15 at the Grant-Sawyer House, 4126 Haughn Road.

"People will be able to tour the home free of charge on that day," Ivers said. "We're holding this open house at the same time as the Arts in the Alley festival, and we hope some of the people coming to town for that event will stop by and see this wonderful restored home."