Introduction: In this article – in honor of Memorial Day – Melissa Davenport Berry searches old newspapers to see how our nation celebrated this special day in the past. Melissa is a genealogist who has a blog, AnceStory Archives, and a Facebook group, New England Family Genealogy and History.
In today’s article, I’m going to look through the pages of old newspapers to see how Memorial Day was celebrated in the past.
With WWI still raging in May 1918, the Detroit Times published this article.
This photo caption read:
Memorial Day Founder – To Gen. Norton Parker Chipman, presiding justice of the third appellate court of California, belongs the distinction of having written the order which set apart May 30 as the national Memorial Day. That was back in 1866 [correction 1868], when he had just concluded a brilliant career in the Civil War.
While enlisted in Company “H” of the Iowa Infantry during the Civil War, Chipman was seriously injured and reported as dead at Fort Donelson in 1862, but he did survive. After he recuperated, he was assigned to special duty in Washington, D.C., and was on Lincoln’s staff at Gettysburg.
As judge advocate, Chipman successfully prosecuted Capt. Henry Wirz, the commander of the Confederacy’s infamous Andersonville prison camp, where almost 13,000 Union soldiers lost their lives. Chipman published his recollections of the famous Andersonville Trial in his 1911 book, “The Tragedy of Andersonville: Trial of Captain Henry Wirz, the Prison Keeper.”
This photo spread was published by the Dallas Morning News in 1928.
This article reported:
A wreath of flowers was laid on a fresh grave Wednesday afternoon in Laurelland, the burial plot of the American Legion in Forest Lawn Burial Park.
Reburial rites were held for Dr. Randolph Martin, British War veteran, as members of John W. Low Post No. 53 and the post auxiliary honored the heroes of all wars with Memorial Day exercises.
The top picture at the left shows the casket holding the body of Dr. Martin being carried to the grave on an artillery caisson with a cavalry escort and the active pallbearers marching behind.
At the top to the right is pictured Major B. C. [Bescac Charles] Nickelson, 209 Hill Avenue, wearing the gray uniform of the Southern Confederacy. A veteran of three wars, he came to pay a tribute to the war heroes and to place a handful of flowers on the grave of his son [Pvt. Jessie Milton Nickelson], who died in the World War.
Major Nickelson is 102 years old and served in the Seventeenth Cavalry of the Fourth Army Corps during the Mexican War, in the Twenty-Eighth Missouri Cavalry during the Civil War, and under Col. Theodore Roosevelt in the Spanish-American War. He was wounded in the Twenty-Eighth Missouri Cavalry during the Civil War and under Col. Theodore Roosevelt in the Spanish-American War. He was wounded sixteen times during his war service.
In the center a portion of the crowd that gathered for the reburial services is shown. At the lower right are shown Col. W. E. Easterwood, commander of John W. Low Post, and Mrs. Ealy J. Moses Jr., president of the post auxiliary, carrying wreaths to decorate the graves of the twenty-two veterans
In the lower left picture are seen Red Cross nurses who marched in the Memorial Day parade. From left to right they are: Misses Helen Schirvety, Julia Miller, Marie Trudgington, and Louise Eudai of St. Paul’s Hospital; Mrs. Willie Paine of Methodist Hospital; and Miss Florence Burk and Mrs. Elsie Dodd, Dallas Board of Education Red Cross nurses for the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps Camp at Mineral Wells.
The Milwaukee Journal published this photo spread on the Memorial Day parade in 1939.
Despite the heat and several prostrations, the march went on in Milwaukee! At the top left a woman musician receives medical aid from the sizzling temps at the end of the parade. At the right, a bird’s eye view of the parade from the rooftop of the Pfister Hotel as it moved down Wisconsin Ave. to the lake front, applauded by 30,000 spectators. On the roof is the hotel chef Otis E. Fields.
At the bottom right, two Civil War vets participate in the parade by riding in an automobile. From left to right: Erich Westernhagen, age 95, and Chester E. Kyte, age 92.
The Dallas Morning News reported on Memorial Day plans in 1956.
This photo caption read:
Officials of the United Spanish-American War Veterans discuss plans for Memorial Day Services Sunday. They are, from left: John White, past national commander; Peyton Irving and Fred C. Emery, camp commander. All are from Dallas.
I conclude with a special treat. In 1909 the Springfield Republican announced a Memorial Day exhibit of photographs of the Civil War taken by Mathew Brady.
This article reported:
There will be on exhibition at the Albert Steiger company’s store during the coming week a remarkable collection of photographs of the Civil War, the most valuable pictorial relics of that period in existence. The collection will form an exhibition peculiarly appropriate to Memorial Day week and will undoubtedly be examined with intense interest by the veterans of the War between the States.
Here are two of the photos from the Mathew Brady Collection at the Library of Congress.
Have an enjoyable Memorial Day weekend – and take some time to remember all those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country.
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Note on the header image: blue rose on a gravestone for Memorial Day. Credit: https://depositphotos.com/home.html