Memorial Day wears a lot of hats. It’s the unofficial start of summer. Women can finally wear their white shoes! Kids look forward to the last few days of school, and everybody heads to the Memorial Day sales. Time for that first trip to the beach, to break out the barbecue, and maybe even see the Indianapolis 500 race held on this day since 1911.
But we also know that Memorial Day has a more serious side. It’s a day to commemorate all the men and women who have died fighting for this country. But did you know that Memorial Day actually began right after the Civil War? Most people are surprised. Interestingly, the first “Memorial Day,” though it wasn’t called that, was held by freed slaves in Charleston, South Carolina who cleaned up and decorated the burial grounds of the Union soldiers who died there. More than 3,000 people joined in the celebration and brought flowers to the graves on May 1st.
The tradition of decorating grave sites is well established in the American South, and in some regions, may be an occasion for huge family reunions and “eating on the ground,” a potluck dinner, renewing acquaintances with the living and honoring the dead. This tradition precedes the Civil War and may be the actual historical basis for Memorial Day.
As a national celebration, the day was originally called Decoration Day and was changed to Memorial Day unofficially in 1882 and officially in 1967. In 1968, it became one of the four holidays moved from their original dates in order to create three-day weekends. It is now the last Monday in May. On the day, all flags are lowered to half-staff until noon, when they are raised with the resolve to not let the sacrifice of the fallen be in vain.
Memorial Day has significance to all Americans and maybe a little extra to those of us at Emerson because we too were started right after the Civil War. The company was established by Civil War Union veteran John Wesley Emerson to manufacture electric motors. By 1892, Emerson began to sell electric fans and quickly expanded to include sewing machines, dental drills and power tools. During WWII, Emerson, under the leadership of Stuart Symington, was the world’s largest manufacturer of airplane armament, and Symington went on to be the first United States Secretary of the Air Force and later a U.S. Senator. Our company continues to grow and diversify such that today we have employees around the world working under seven business platforms of which Emerson Process Management is one. Whether we are making electric engines, measuring liquid and gas parameters, or providing gas and flame detection, our roots run deep in the forwarding of America and its people. Since 1890 – Happy Memorial Day!