The Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), a national organization of Union Civil War military veterans, proclaimed the Memorial Day holiday in 1868 to commemorate those Union soldiers and sailors who died during the Civil War. North Baltimore’s tradition of Memorial Day parades began in the early 1880s. Local Union Army veterans founded GAR Sill Post #57 in 1881, and they soon began to organize the town’s Memorial Day parade.
A May 22, 1891 North Baltimore Beacon newspaper article lists the order of march for the parade on Saturday, May 30, 1891 as the Drum Corps, Sons of Union Veterans, Little Girls and Boys Band, Ladies Relief Corps, Sill Post of Ex-Soldiers, and citizens on foot and in carriages. The GAR Ladies Relief Corps members decorated the Union veteran graves in Maplewood Cemetery with flags prior to the ceremony.
Only after World War I did Memorial Day became a holiday to commemorate American military dead from all the nation’s wars. By the early 1920s, the few remaining elderly GAR members were no longer able to organize the holiday’s commemoration. Younger World War I veterans in local American Legion Post 539 then assumed the task of organizing the town’s Memorial Day ceremonies, a tradition which continues today.
Images of the 1947 North Baltimore Memorial Day Parade