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From the Archives: A look back at previous Memorial Day celebrations

May 30, 1927: The Fife and Drum Corps leads the Grand Army of the Republic during Memorial Day parade. (Los Angeles Times)

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.

May 30, 1911: Honor guard fires a salute at the Seventh California Volunteer monument, also known as Spanish-American War Memorial, in Pershing Square. A staff artist added the white background in 1911. (Los Angeles Times)
May 30, 1912: The Memorial Day parade included local posts of the Grand Army of the Republic organization. About 700 Civil War veterans marched in the parade. (Los Angeles Times)
May 31, 1920: Red Cross nurses who served in World War I march in Memorial Day Parade. (Los Angeles Times)
May 30, 1922: Graves at Rosedale Cemetery are decorated during Memorial Day. (Los Angeles Times)
May 30, 1924: Unpublished panorama of Memorial Day activities at the Coliseum. The Times reported that all branches of the military were present. No information on the insert photo is available. (Los Angeles Times)
May 30, 1929: An American Legion unit during Memorial Day parade at the Coliseum. (Los Angeles Times)
May 30, 1935: A rifle squad from the 160th Infantry fires off a salute during the Memorial Day program at the Pershing Square Soldier's Monument. (Los Angeles Times)
May 30, 1939: World War I veteran Joe Adgar, left, and Spanish-American War veteran P.P. Finnerin kneel by the graves of comrades at the Sawtelle Veterans Cemetery. (Los Angeles Times)
May 30, 1942: Civil War veterans are helped through an arch of flags during a Memorial Day observance at Los Angeles City Hall. The Civil War veterans insisted on walking. (Gordon Wallace / Los Angeles Times)
May 30, 1946: Veterans stand guard over graves of comrades at Sawtelle Veterans Cemetery during Memorial Day observance. (Paul Calvert / Los Angeles Times)
May 30, 1951: A Veterans Administration Center firing squad unleashes a volley over the graves at Sawtelle Veterans Cemetery. More than 3,000 people attended the Memorial Day services besides the graves of 31,000 veterans. (Schuyler Hixson Jr. / Los Angeles Times)
May 29, 1952: An Army tank is flanked by Boy Scouts and a youth band in Pasadena's four-mile parade in a pre-Memorial Day event. (Frank Q. Brown / Los Angeles Times)
May 30, 1954: More than 500 people jam the afterdeck of the cruiser Helena for Memorial Day services. The ship was anchored three miles out from the Navy Landing in Long Beach. (Grant MacDonald / Los Angeles Times)
May 30, 1954: Kristy Kyte, 3, places a wreath on a monument to the unknown dead at Rose Hills Memorial Park while members of Legion Post 51 prepare to fire. (Bruce Cox / Los Angeles Times)
May 30, 1966: Cub Scouts march in a Memorial Day Parade on Brand Boulevard in Glendale. (Joe Kennedy. / Los Angeles Times)
May 29, 1967: Veteran Charles Billstron, 47, leans on his walking stick as he examines headstone at Sawtelle Veterans Cemetery. Billstrom, a former Air Force sergeant, came look for the grave of a friend. (George Fry / Los Angeles Times)
May 28, 1973: On Memorial Day, Juanita Lane kneels at the grave of her son at the Veterans Cemetery in West Los Angeles. (George Fry / Los Angeles Times)
May 26, 1978: A woman carrying flowers searches for grave of loved one at Sawtelle Veterans Cemetery to decorate it for Memorial Day. (Rick Meyer / Los Angeles Times)
May 23, 1987: Cub Scouts rush to place additional flags for Memorial Day weekend at the Los Angeles National Cemetery in Westwood. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)
May 27, 1991: The Weber family, from left, Eric, 14, Joseph, 9, Melissa, 7, Jennifer, 10, and their father, Dennis Webber, visit the grave of their grandparents at Loma Vista Memorial Park during Memorial Day. (Gail Fisher / Los Angeles Times)

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