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Memorial Day Poppies

Celebrate Memorial Day this weekend with your own poppy wreath!

Memorial Day is an American holiday, observed on the last Monday of May, honoring the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. Originally known as Decoration Day, it originated in the years following the Civil War and became an official federal holiday in 1971. Unofficially, it marks the beginning of the summer season.

Constantino Brumidi, “Columbia Welcoming the South Back into the Union”, before 1876. Oil on canvas. Given in loving memory of Jean Gardiner Chisholm Lindsey by Alexander and Lynn Lindsey and John and Julia Lindsey. Morris Museum of Art, Augusta, Georgia.

This oil sketch is a small version of a work painted on the ceiling of the vice president’s Senate office in the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C. It is an allegorical painting, using figures, objects, and events to represent ideas. Posed in a majestic American landscape, the figure of Columbia, dressed in a tunic and holding a rudder, sits between two other female figures. One figure is shown with a sheaf of wheat and a cornucopia symbolizing agriculture in the northern states, while the other holds a caduceus, a symbol of commerce. Columbia extends a hand to the South who approaches wearing a toga and holding a bouquet of cotton bolls. The South is being led by Liberty, who wears a liberty cap and a sash of stars across her chest. At Liberty’s feet is an eagle, who holds the olive branch of peace in its beak. The artist Brumidi has created a conciliatory scene in which the South is welcomed back into the federal union.

After World War I, the poppy flourished in Europe. Scientists attributed the growth to soils in France and Belgium becoming enriched with lime from the rubble left by the war. From the dirt and mud grew a beautiful red poppy. The red poppy came to symbolize the blood shed during battle following the publication of the wartime poem “In Flanders Fields.”

On September 27, 1920, the poppy became the official flower of The American Legion family to memorialize the soldiers who fought and died during the war. In 1924, the distribution of poppies became a national program of The American Legion.


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