Thursday, August 31, 2017

1932 Labor Day Snapshots by Arnold Rosenwald & El Rodeo (273)

1932 El Rodeo, Labor Day Description
As reported in the previous DHT post -- number 272 -- Arnold Rosenwald made 12 photos of  Davis campus events in 1932, nine featuring Picnic Day and three of Labor Day. 

The meanings of the name, and observances of, “Labor Day” differ greatly between the U. S. and the UC campus at Davis. In the larger U.S., Labor Day is, quoting Wikipedia, “a public holiday [that] honors the American labor movement and the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, laws and well-being of the country.” Unions began to promote such a day in the late 19th century and, in 1887, Oregon was the first state to make it an official holiday. “By the time it became an official federal holiday in 1894, thirty U.S. states officially celebrated Labor Day.”

A curious and interesting aspect is that, starting in 1897, the same name was used at the University of California (then meaning Berkeley) to label a campus-wide day of voluntary labor devoted to campus improvement projects (Ann Scheuring, Abundant Harvest, p. 35).

Given what we know about the intensity of public sentiments for and against labor unions, it is not a stretch to guess that Berkeley’s Labor Day was a sideways negative comment on the larger and “real” Labor Day.

Scheuring further reports that the Berkeley use and practice was imported to Davis starting in 1915 (p, 35) and the event took place in each leap year. So it is that the El Rodeo page shown here has a photo from the 1928 Labor Day followed by three from 1932. Student injuries in 1964 raised liability issues that led to that being the last year (Scheuring, p. 141).

Page 44 from the 1932 El Rodeo yearbook reproduced here provides a charmingly period account of the events making up the 1932 Labor Day, including even the “banquet served by our co-eds.”

The El Rodeo photograph page on that Labor Day contains images that are clearly selected to show students in serious and organized endeavors. The better to see them, I have enlarged and enhanced the 1932 three. Because the originals are fairly rough half-tones, they still lack detail but their message remains clear: diligence and order reign (images 1, 2, and 3).

It is striking to me that Rosenwald’s three snapshots tell a different story than the El Rodeo three! In each of his, we see male students lounging or “horsing around” (Images 4, 5, and 6) rather than working much at all.
1932 El Rodeo, Labor Day Images

1. Enlarged El Rodeo Labor Day Image-1

2. Enlarged El Rodeo Labor Day Image-2
3. Enlarged El Rodeo Labor Day Image-3

4. Rosenwald Labors Day Snapshot-1

5. Rosenwald Labor Day Snapshot-2

6. Rosenwald Labor Day Snapshot-3. Notice that the person holding
the bucket is wearing handcuffs.