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Topics in Chronicling America - Memorial Day/Decoration Day

With flags flying at half-mast, tombstones decorated with wreaths and bouquets, and processions of the bereaved paying their respects at national cemeteries, ceremonies honoring fallen soldiers take place across the country. First observed in 1865 to commemorate soldiers who died during the Civil War, Memorial Day (formerly known as Decoration Day) was later extended to honor all American military personnel who gave the ultimate sacrifice in all wars. Read more about it!

The information and sample article links below provide access to a sampling of articles from historic newspapers that can be found in the Chronicling America: American Historic Newspapers digital collection ( Use the Suggested Search Terms and Dates to explore this topic further in Chronicling America.


Jump to: Sample Articles

Important Dates:

  • May 5, 1868. General John Logan officially proclaims Decoration Day (later known as Memorial Day), and on May 30 of that year flowers are placed on the graves of Union soldiers at Arlington Cemetery.
  • 1869-1911. Northern states begin to adopt the holiday, featuring parades, speeches, and events commemorating the Civil War dead. The name of the holiday gradually changes to Memorial Day during this period.
  • May 1919-1920. While Decoration/Memorial Day originally commemorated Civil War dead, newspapers begin to advocate commemoration of those killed in The Great War (World War I) and eventually all wars.

Suggested Search Strategies:

  • [Try the following terms in combination, proximity, or as phrases using Search Pages in Chronicling America.] Memorial, Decoration, cemetery, Arlington, General Logan.
  • It is important to use a specific date range if looking for articles for a particular event in order to narrow your results.

Sample Articles from Chronicling America:

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  August 23, 2013
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