Saturday, May 23, 2015

Repost: History of Memorial Day

(Originally posted 5/27/2012)

[Note: I did not write this.  It was a post by an anonymous user in one of my WW2 forums.  As soon as I find the actual author I will give due credit --Editor.]

Memorial Day History

Three years after the Civil War ended, on May 5, 1868, the head of an
organization of Union veterans — the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) — established Decoration Day as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the
war dead with flowers.
Maj. Gen. John A. Logan declared that Decoration Day should be observed on May 30. It is believed that date was chosen because  flowers would be in bloom all over the country.  
The first large observance was held that year at Arlington National Cemetery, across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C.  The ceremonies centered around the mourning-draped veranda of the Arlington mansion, once the home of Gen. Robert E. Lee. Various Washington officials, including Gen. and Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant, presided over the ceremonies.  
After speeches, children from the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Orphan Home and members of the GAR made their way through the cemetery, strewing flowers on both Union and Confederate graves, reciting prayers and singing hymns.  
Local Observances Claim To Be First 
Local springtime tributes to the Civil War dead already had been held in various places. 
One of the first occurred in Columbus, Miss., April 25, 1866, when a group of women visited a cemetery to decorate the graves of Confederate soldiers who had fallen in battle
at Shiloh. Nearby were the graves of Union soldiers, neglected because they were the enemy. Disturbed at the sight of the bare graves, the women placed some of their flowers on those graves, as well.  
Today, cities in the North and the South claim to be the birthplace of Memorial Day in 1866. Both Macon and Columbus, Ga., claim the title, as well as Richmond, Va. The village of Boalsburg, Pa., claims it began there two years earlier. A stone in a Carbondale, Illinois cemetery carries the statement that the first Decoration Day ceremony took place there on April 29, 1866.  
Carbondale was the wartime home of Gen. Logan. Approximately 25 places have been named in connection with the origin of Memorial Day, many of them in the South where most of the war dead were buried.  
Official Birthplace Declared In 1966 
Congress and President Lyndon Johnson declared Waterloo, N.Y., the “birthplace” of Memorial Day. There, a ceremony on May 5, 1866, honored local veterans who had fought in the Civil War. Businesses closed and residents flew flags at half-staff. Supporters of Waterloo’s claim say earlier observances in other places were either
informal, not community-wide or one-time events.  
By the end of the 19th century, Memorial Day ceremonies were being held on May 30 throughout the nation. State legislatures passed proclamations designating the day, and the Army and Navy adopted regulations for proper observance at their facilities.  
It was not until after World War I, however, that the day was expanded to honor those who have died in all American wars. In 1971, Memorial Day was declared a national holiday by an act of Congress, though it is still often called Decoration Day. It was then also placed on the last Monday in May, as were some other federal holidays.  
Some States Have Confederate Observances 
Many Southern states also have their own days for honoring the Confederate dead. Mississippi celebrates Confederate Memorial Day on the last Monday of April, Alabama on the fourth Monday of April, and Georgia on April 26. North and South Carolina observe it on May 10, Louisiana on June 3, and Tennessee calls that date Confederate
Decoration Day. Texas celebrates Confederate Heroes Day January 19 and
Virginia calls the last Monday in May Confederate Memorial Day.  
General Logan’s order for his posts to decorate graves in 1868 “with the choicest flowers of springtime” urged: “We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance. ... Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners. Let no neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.” 
The crowd attending the first Memorial Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery was approximately the same size as those that attend today’s observance, about 5,000 people. Then, as now, small American flags were placed on each grave — a tradition followed at many national cemeteries today. In recent years, the custom has grown in many families to decorate the graves of all departed loved ones.  
The origins of special services to honor those who die in war can be found in antiquity. The Athenian leader Pericles offered a tribute to the fallen heroes of the Peloponnesian War over 24 centuries ago that could be applied today to the 1.1 million Americans who have died in the nation’s wars: “Not only are they commemorated by columns and inscriptions, but there dwells also an unwritten memorial of them, graven not on stone but in the hearts of men.”  
To ensure the sacrifices of America ’s fallen heroes are never forgotten, in December 2000, the U.S. Congress passed and the president signed into law “The National Moment of Remembrance Act,” P.L. 106-579, creating the White House Commission on the National Moment of Remembrance. The commission’s charter is to “encourage the people of the United States to give something back to their country, which provides them so much freedom and opportunity” by encouraging and coordinating commemorations in the United States of Memorial Day, and the National Moment of Remembrance.  
The National Moment of Remembrance encourages all Americans to pause
wherever they are at 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day for a minute of silence to
remember and honor those who have died in service to the nation. As Moment
of Remembrance founder Carmella LaSpada states: “It’s a way we can all
help put the memorial back in Memorial Day.”

Some vintage photographs of Decoration Day (pre-WW1) that feature living Civil War veterans.

Civil War Veterans, Fourth of July or Decoration Day, Ortonville, Minnesota.  ca. 1880

Source: Wikipedi

Source: (

(Below) Decoration Day 1889.  I do not know where this photo was taken, it appears to be in a school judging by the chalkboards. That is a lot of flowers. Perhaps they were brought in by the children.  (Source:

This is a rare labeled photo of Civil War veterans on Decoration Day. I am overjoyed that someone took the time to record the names of these men. So many old photos in antique stores of anonymous people make me sad, because no one will ever know who they were.

(Image source:

Decoration Day celebration in Manila, taken May 30th, 1899
during the Spanish-American War

Source: Unknown

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

How to Design Authentic 1860's Civil War Event Flyers & Posters

This is a post in progress.

Hello pards, and welcome back to Company Q Headquarters! It's been a cold, dreary, dark winter in 1865. But the days are getting longer, the life has returned to the land, the muddy roads are drying out, and pretty soon those Johnny Rebs will be fightin' us again. This marks the end of the Sesquiecentennial (sp?) anniversary cycle, and next year we reset the clock back to 1861 and start over with Fort Sumter again.

I have been meaning to write this post for awhile, and I suppose I should do it before all the excitement about our time period dies down.

As a highly skilled, trained and well-versed expert in my chosen field I studied before this dreaded war, (that of a commercial printer), I have been meaning, no...procrastinating on writing this very helpful journal entry. It's on how to design convincing event flyers and recruiting posters for reenactments and reenacting groups, done in a historically accurate style.  To this end, I have compiled this series of infographics if you will, of how to do this yourself using desktop publishing software and free fonts, following the Nineteenth Century "Rules" of design.

Before we start, you will need a desktop publishing program. Microsoft Publisher is adequate, but an Adobe program is better. Adobe gives 100% freedom to push, pull, stretch and resize text without any constraint or size limits. And it has none of that annoying "snap to grid" or "margins" that Microsoft Office does. Luckily, Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop are now available for a monthly subscription fee through Adobe Creative Cloud instead of $2,000 for a permanent license. The unregistered 30-day trials can save documents and have full functionality for one month. Don't forget you can also use alternative free publishing programs like Inkscape (vector drawing program) and GIMP (A poor man's Photoshop). These programs are absolutely free, open-source and user supported.  Apache OpenOffice is a free clone of MS Office products.

I wanted to start out this unique post by showing a few historical examples of famous Civil War posters.

The first one everybody's seen. It is a broadside printed for a South Carolina newspaper, nowadays known as a flyer. Look at how huge they printed that headline. The UNION is DISSOLVED!!  It's shocking enough to make a young lady faint. It actually would have cost a substantial amount of money to print letters this big. We tend to forget how much more work it was to typeset back then. These type blocks were large and heavy and probably custom made for the job. Obviously, the printer spared no expense in creating this earth-shattering headline that altered the fate of a nation.

Recruiting posters were also printed in ridiculously bold letters to grab young men's attention. 

And here's one I like, a recruiting broadside from the Governor of Pennsylvania proclaiming the mustering in of a new infantry regiment. The unit is known as Kane's Rifles, after its colonel Thomas Leiper Kane. This was officially named the 42nd Pennsylvania Infantry, the "old bucktails" unit!


If you have an artistic eye, you may notice that these  posters seem to break many of the contemporary rules of layout design, notably too many fonts, text that makes your eyes jump around, and looking too "busy". 

There were different rules back in those days, and we simply have to get used to them and think like an 1860's person.

Now I will show how YOU TOO can make posters and flyers that look authentic to promote your events or recruit new members to your reenacting unit!

The following fonts have been confirmed as authentic typefaces used during the Civil War.

These fonts are actual historic typefaces which were studied, traced and digitized by modern designers. You may recognize some of them from Harper's Weekly newspapers or recruiting posters, or various other historic places. Chances are you've seen many of these fonts before, but you didn't know what they are called. All the fonts shown above are free and can be downloaded from a font website like

For the more serious typesetter who would like to see some really high quality premium Civil War fonts and pay some money, you can click on the link below to be taken to an online store where you can purchase the sets of type. I highly recommend WALDEN FONT CO. as the best source of accurate, very faithfully reproduced historic typefaces.

This next set of free fonts below, while some of them did exist in the 1860's, did not become really popular and come into widespread use until the 1870's and 1880's, when mechanical printing machines and more advanced typesetting techniques were developed, allowing for finer detail.

Use the below fonts sparingly, or as little as possible. 

While they might be fancy, I feel these typefaces scream "Wild West" more than anything else. How many times in bad cowboy movies have you seen the lettering styles shown above? The top one, Mesquite Standard, to me says SALOON while the Playbill font second from the bottom is from the stereotyped WANTED: DEAD OR ALIVE $1,000 REWARD posters.  These are less appropriate to be used in an 1860's advertisement for this reason, though I'm not saying they didn't exist. These were more likely hand painted on storefront signs and not printed.The bottom one, Rosewood Standard, reminds me of circus shows, or like something to be painted on the side of a bandwagon.

Here is the "Black List" of fonts which should NEVER be used. Many people pick these because they come shipped standard with newer versions of Windows and Microsoft Office. Don't. These fonts are cheap, hackneyed and hideously overused, not to mention non-historical, and I strongly urge you not to use them.

The Zapfino font, while so many people love its graceful, swoopy calligraphic-style letters, is not appropriate. The creator of this font family, Hermann Zapf, was born in 1918, so it's even the wrong century!  (yes, he was German, in case you wondered where the funny font name Zapf Dingbats came from. Zapf coined the term "dingbat" as a silly word for a little picture or symbol included as part of his typeface family.

So what are the design rules of 1860's lettering and typesetting? Here I have tried to explain it visually.

It's been said that those with the least intelligent things
to say speak the loudest.

All text layouts should look symmetrical and visually stable.

A general rule when designing 1860's posters is to make the best use of the space you can. Try to cover about 80% of the page. Stretch out lines to fill empty areas, but be sure to leave a 1/2 inch to 1 inch margin on either side.

Here's an example of a flyer I created
using the principles I just discussed.

I stretched the rules a little bit, using 6 fonts. But the style and text arrangement is spot on. Recruiting posters tended to separate different pieces of information with black lines. 

As for the engravings, as long as you're not stealing a scan of an original document from someone's private collection, Google image search will suffice. The idea of copyright law didn't really come around until Teddy Roosevelt's time, and even for about 20 years after that it was hardly respected. Besides, anything produced 150 years ago is now in the public domain. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Nobody can claim ownership of a sketch or an engraving if the person that made it died over 100 years ago, unless they own the actual original document and it is the only one of its kind. 
I hope you find this post helpful. Happy pixel-pushing!