Labor Day – More than just a Summer Picnic

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It’s hard to believe that summer is nearly over, and that Labor Day is just around the corner. Traditionally celebrated by outdoor picnics, local band concerts on the gazebo and hometown parades, Labor Day has become a staple of American culture. But what does it really mean?

According to the Department of Labor (, the first Monday in September was designated a national holiday to celebrate the contributions made by“…the creator of so much of the nation’s strength, freedom, and leadership – the American worker.”

The contributions made by engineers, scientists and inventors toward the advancement of various technologies that make labor easier, less time consuming and more efficient haven’t always been embraced with unbridled enthusiasm. “A man with a new idea is a crank until he succeeds,” Mark Twain famously said in the late 19th Century. Even after success is achieved using newly invented machines or innovative methods, it’s not always greeted with unbridled joy. Yet innovation, progress and sweeping technological changes continue, with engineers often leading the way into the future.

New inventions and advances in technology date all the way back to the days of the ancient Greeks, starting with innovators such as Archimedes, who calculated pi and developed the Archimedes screw to lift water from mines or wells. Below are a few others scattered throughout history – can you guess from their names what they invented? Answers appear at the bottom of the article.

  1. Alessandro Volta (1745-1827), Italian physicist
  2. Samuel Morse (1791-1872), American inventor
  3. Louis Braille (1809-1852) French inventor
  4. Karl Benz (1844-1929) German inventor and businessman
  5. Rudolph Diesel (1858-1913) German inventor


Can you imagine what our lives would be like without these inventions and technological developments? Who would have time for Labor Day celebrations, or even be able to drive down to the local parade?

  1. Invented the battery
  2. Single telegraph wire, and the Morse Code
  3. Blinded in a childhood accident, he developed the Braille system of reading for the blind
  4. Received his first patent for a gas-powered internal combustion engine, which made automobiles practical
  5. Invented the diesel-powered combustion engine

For more information about these and other equally important innovators, visit