This oil on canvas Americana original illustration by E.M. Jackson dates to the 1920s and presents a vision of the working man as “King for a Day.” Titled “Labor Day,” this was likely created as cover art for a September issue of a title from the Curtis publishing line of magazines. Along with the Saturday Evening Post, Curtis publications included the Ladies’ Home Journal The American Home, Holiday, Jack & Jill, and Country Gentleman.
The scene shows a beaming man in rolled shirtsleeves and overalls, the traditional garb of both the factory worker, covered in an ornate cape and tipping a top hat. During World War I, industrial workers gained a new measure of visibility, due to the importance of mechanized transportation and weaponry to the war effort. After armistice, this growing factory workforce began to unionize, and became a focal point for conversations about class and culture in the US. The idealized vision of the workingman as depicted by Jackson, speaks to the importance of the laborer in building 20th century American society.