What we now celebrate as Memorial Day began after the Civil War as Decoration Day ...

Postcard honoring American Civil War veterans, illustrated with military regalia.

What we now celebrate as Memorial Day officially began on May 30, 1868 as Decoration Day, a day of remembrance which helped Americans to grieve the soldiers who had lost their lives in the line of duty during the four-year war. The first formal observance followed years of informal commemorations; some records indicate that the first precursor to Decoration Day was organized by a coalition of formerly enslaved people in Charleston, South Carolina as early as 1865, within a month of the Confederacy's surrender.

In the years after World War II, people gradually began referring to the observance as 'Memorial Day', with the federal government adopting the name in 1967.

Today, Hagley Library honors the date with this undated postcard from our collection of Travel, holiday and miscellaneous postcards (Accession 2013.201). The diverse collection contains 173 postcards from various U.S. states, Europe, Asia and Africa. There are also a number postcards celebrating holidays, religious observances, birthdays, and cartoons depicting domestic scenes from various artists including D. Tempest, Jimmy Hatlo and Marshall Davis.