The custom of honoring ancestors by cleaning cemeteries and decorating graves is an ancient and worldwide tradition, but the specific origin of Memorial Day, or Decoration Day as it was first known, are unclear. In early rural America, this duty was usually performed in late summer and was an occasion for family reunions and picnics. After the Civil War, America’s need for a secular, patriotic ceremony to honor its military dead became prominent, as monuments to fallen soldiers were erected and dedicated, and ceremonies centering on the decoration of soldiers’ graves were held in towns and cities throughout the nation. No less than 25 places have been named in connection with the origin of Memorial Day, and for many years, states observed the holiday on different dates. By federal law, however, Memorial Day is now celebrated on the last Monday in May. Since it all started with the Civil War, you might want to brush up on your knowledge of this event by visiting the Library of Congress Civil War collection, which includes more than a thousand photographs.
- 1821: THE FIRST CATHOLIC CATHEDRAL IN THE UNITED STATES WAS DEDICATED IN BALTIMORE, MARYLAND.200 Years Ago
- 1859: THE GREAT CLOCK (AKA BIG BEN) IN LONDON OFFICIALLY BEGAN KEEPING TIME. (ON JULY 11, THE GREAT BELL FIRST STRUCK THE HOUR.) THE 315-FOOT-HIGH TOWER, PART OF THE HOUSES OF PARLIAMENT BUILDING, HAS NO ELEVATOR; THERE ARE 334 STEPS TO THE BELFRY. THE FOUR QUARTER BELLS, OR CHIMES, RING OUT EVERY 15 MINUTES. THE GREAT BELL TOLLS EVERY HOUR. THE MINUTE HAND MEASURES ALMOST 14 FEET LONG. THE CLOCK MECHANISM WEIGHS 5.6 TONS, AND IS WOUND THREE TIMES A WEEK. THE CLOCK’S TIME IS ADJUSTED BY CHANGING THE NUMBER OF OLD PENNIES SITTING ON A SHELF NEAR THE TOP OF THE PENDULUM. THE TUNE PLAYED EACH HOUR IS FROM THE ARIA “I KNOW THAT MY REDEEMER LIVETH,” PART OF HANDEL’S MESSIAH.
- BORN 1861: EMILY PERKINS BISSELL (SOCIAL WORKER)
- BORN 1868: SIR VICTOR CAVENDISH, DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE (CANADIAN GOVERNOR-GENERAL 1916-1921)
- 1982: 1,376-LB. PACIFIC BLUE MARLIN CAUGHT, KAIWI POINT, KONA, HAWAII
- DIED 1983: JACK DEMPSEY (BOXER)
- DIED 2004: ALBERTA MARTIN (ONE OF THE LAST WIDOWS FROM THE CONFEDERATE SIDE, DIED NEARLY 140 YEARS AFTER THE CIVIL WAR ENDED)
- 2005: THE LEGENDARY SOURCE “DEEP THROAT” IN THE WATERGATE SCANDAL THAT BROUGHT DOWN PRESIDENT NIXON WAS IDENTIFIED AS W. MARK FELT
- DIED 2009: MILLVINA DEAN (LAST SURVIVOR OF THE RMS TITANIC)