“The world is moved along, not only by the mighty shoves of its heroes, but also by the aggregate of the tiny pushes of each honest worker.” So wrote social activist Helen Keller in 1908. We couldn’t agree more. On this Labor Day, let’s pause and salute all of America’s workers: past, present, and future.
Issued earlier this year, the Made in America: Building a Nation Forever® stamps honor the men and women who helped build our country.
Coal miners in states such as Pennsylvania and West Virginia often braved dangerous conditions to do their jobs. Coal, the fruit of their labor, was used to make coke for steel, which formed the foundation of our cities’ majestic buildings.
Skyscrapers like the Empire State Building were erected by iron workers, including riveters and welders. This massive high-rise required an astounding amount of man power. It took slightly more than a year to complete and opened in 1931. Thousands of workers—many of whom were immigrants and Native Americans—helped build the iconic structure.
American industry extended beyond skyscraper construction. Building the country’s railroads was a massive and important undertaking. Since the middle of the 19th century, when the first transcontinental railroad was completed, railroads have carried countless tons of cargo across the nation.
Also, as the photographs on these stamps attest, women’s contributions to early 20th-century industry were vital. Textile and millinery workers spent untold hours toiling in factories without much recognition.
The extraordinary nature of early 20th-century industry hasn’t faded from the public consciousness. The photograph of a powerhouse mechanic on the pane is a staple of popular culture. It depicts the sort of worker Lewis Hine (1874–1940), the photographer who shot many of the images on these stamps, cared about the most.
“It is for the sake of emphasis, not exaggeration, that I select the more pictorial personalities when I do the industrial portrait,” he wrote in 1933, “for it is the only way that I can illustrate my thesis that the human spirit is the big thing after all.”
The Made in America: Building a Nation Forever® stamps are available now online, by calling 800-STAMP24 (800-782-6724), and in Post Offices nationwide.