Observed in the United States on the last Monday of May, Memorial Day honors those who died in the armed forces. Many cities in the United States have claimed to be the originators of Memorial Day, including Boalsburg, Pennsylvania. Boalsburg declared itself the birthplace of Memorial Day in 1864, according to this pamphlet (oddly enough, a part of the Digital Library of Georgia’s collections!). Unfortunately for Boalsburg, President Lyndon Johnson declared in 1966 that Waterloo, New York was the official birthplace of this tradition. Regardless of its birthplace, we celebrate this day every year by organizing parades, decorating gravesites, wearing remembrance poppies, and thanking those who served.
Here are some items from PA Digital collections highlighting celebrations in our state’s past:
Memorial Day Parade, 1927. Courtesy of James V. Brown Public Library.
Memorial Day Parade, 1945. Courtesy of James V. Brown Public Library.
View of canoes with lead canoe pulling a smaller canoe filled with flowers, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Courtesy of Lehigh University.
Thomas Sovereign Gates (Penn President, 1930-1944) places a wreath at War Memorial plaque in Furness Library, 1945. Courtesy of the University of Pennsylvania.
Memorial Day also typically signals the official beginning of summer! After the prolonged winter this year, we could sure use it. The long weekend is a popular time for backyard barbecuing, spending time in the garden, or heading down the shore (and, of course, getting stuck in traffic on the way home). Take a look at how Pennsylvanians have celebrated:
Boys swim at Vare Recreation Center, 1964. Courtesy of Temple University.
Miss Mermaid celebrates Atlantic City beach opening. Courtesy of Temple University.
Memorial Day traffic, 1972. Courtesy of Temple University.
We hope you all take some inspiration from these celebrations and enjoy your Memorial Day weekend. Happy summer!