Memorial Day originated as Decoration Day. Starting in 1868, Union Civil War veterans, organized into the Grand Army of the Republic, began Decoration Day to place flowers on the graves of Union soldiers.
Before World War I, Memorial Day remembrance centered on veterans and soldiers killed in the Civil War and the Spanish American War.
In its May 31, 1911, edition, the Los Angeles Times reported on the Memorial Day activities:
Again the remnant of the Grand Army of the Republic, composing the posts of this city, yesterday passed in review before the populace, most of which were mustered out nearly half a century ago. It was not with sorrow that they were viewed as they marched a few blocks, but with delight that so many remain to assemble and pay tribute to the memory of the comrades who have proceeded them to the silent camping-ground.
The ranks may thin, hair may whiten and shoulders may stoop a little under the weight of years, but the martial spirit seems immortal. With the same measured tread with which they have passed before the commander-in-chief of the army, they marched yesterday on Broadway in time with the thrilling notes of the Veteran Fife and Drum Corps of this city, the most remarkable organization of its kind in the world.
All of the posts of the city, together with kindred organizations and the Spanish War Veterans, joined in memorial services at the Auditorium yesterday afternoon.
Within a few years, World War I added many more service members to be honored and remembered.
Most of these images were taken throughout the years on May 30 — the traditional date of Memorial Day. In 1971, Memorial Day was changed to the last Monday in May.
Some of the images in this gallery were scanned from prints with unusual shapes and backgrounds retouched by Times staff artists — a common Times practice in the early 20th century.