Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the unveiling of an exhibit in the State Capitol that honors New York's service men and women who have died in war, as well as highlighting the state's leading role in the birth of the Memorial Day holiday.
"This exhibit will give New Yorkers and those who visit the Capitol a place to honor the memory of those who lost their lives in service to our country," Governor Cuomo said. "From the very first Decoration Day parades down Main Street, Waterloo in the mid-19th Century, New York State has led the nation in designating a special day to commemorate the men and women in our armed services who paid the ultimate sacrifice. I encourage all New Yorkers, young and old, to visit this exhibit to learn about our state's extraordinary history, while also taking pause to honor the fallen."
During the Civil War, there were more soldiers serving from New York than any other state, and the Village of Waterloo in Seneca County is recognized as the birthplace for Memorial Day. In May of 1866, a pharmacist named Henry Welles organized a "Decoration Day" in Waterloo to honor the New Yorkers who died during the Civil War. The graves of fallen soldiers were decorated, patriotic bunting was hung on buildings, and veterans of the Union Army paraded down Main Street, Waterloo. Decoration Day gained popularity and in 1868, John Logan, the head of the Union Army Veterans Association, proclaimed May 30th Decoration Day for the North. In 1873, New York became the first state to officially declare Declaration Day a holiday.
While Decoration Days were being celebrated in the North, Judge Francis Miles Finch, an Associate Judge of the New York State Court of Appeals, published his poem, "The Blue and the Gray," in the September 1867 issue of the Atlantic Monthly Journal. The poem helped inspire a national movement to recognize a single Memorial Day for all of the soldiers who died during the Civil War.
The Capitol Memorial Day Exhibit tells the story of New Yorks role in the birth of this important holiday, with pictures of Welles, Logan and General John B. Murray, and the role these individuals played. There are also 19th Century pictures of Waterloo portraying the early Decoration Day celebrations. The exhibit will be located in the State Street lobby on the first floor of the State Capitol building in Albany for several weeks before moving to the War Room on the second floor.
The following artifacts are on display:
- Logan, John Alexander. The Volunteer Soldier of America by John A. Logan: With Memoir of the Author and Military Reminiscences from General Logans Private Journal
- Sheet music of America Heres My Boy. Music by Arthur Lange. Words by Andrew B. Sterling.
- Editorial cartoon drawn by Hy Rosen and published in the Albany Times Union to mark Memorial Day 1963
- Ill Be Home for Christmas (If Only in My Dreams) Words and music by Kim Gannon, Walter Kent, Buck Ram
- Sheet Music of After the War Is Over: Will There Be Any Home Sweet Home? Music by Joseph Woodruff. Words by E.J. Pourmon.
- Postcards of Civil War monuments that were dedicated on Memorial Day
- Oration of General John A. Logan: Delivered Upon the Occasion of the Decoration of Union Soldiers' Graves, at the National Cemetery, Arlington, Va., on Memorial Day, May
- Mills Memorial and Decoration Day Programme
- Memorial Day of the Grand Army of the Republic, Borough of Manhattan
- A copy of the September 1867 Atlantic Monthly Journal
In addition to the panel and artifacts, a portrait of Judge Francis Miles Finch on loan from the Court of Appeals will be on display. This is the first time the portrait has been on display outside of the Court of Appeals.
For more information visit: http://www.hallofgovernors.ny.gov/generic/memorialdayexhibit