The first Labor Day was observed as a "working man's holiday" on Tuesday, September 5, 1882, in New York City. It was moved to the first Monday in September in 1884 and by 1885 Labor Day was celebrated in many cities.
These shaving mugs belonged to men who engaged in the trades they picture. They were proud of the work they did and wanted to let their neighbors know it. Shaving mugs with pictures of men's jobs were popular from about 1860 through the early 1900s. A rack of shaving mugs was a common sight at any barbershop a century ago. When a man arrived for his shave, the barber would use his customer's own personalized mug. The racks of mugs could be good for the barber's business as well—a lot of mugs indicated a large clientele.
The shaving mugs were usually porcelain, shipped "blank" from France or Germany to be painted. Mugs featuring just names or common professions sell for a few hundred dollars. Mugs with rarer professions or more intricate pictures sell in the thousands. The mugs pictured here were all part of a single collection sold recently at a Bertoia auction in New Jersey. Prices: Ice Wagon Driver shaving mug, John McHugh, $295; Grocery clerk shaving mug, Ezra S. Fudge, $826; Floor tiler shaving mug, Harry Katz, $6,490; Stock broker shaving mug, W.A. O'Boyle, $15,340.