Online Exhibition - John A. Logan Collection: Objects from the Founder of Memorial Day

Saturday, Aug 29, 2020

Tucson, AZ 85701

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Few may be aware of an interesting connection between Tucson and the man responsible for Memorial Day becoming a national holiday.

In 1868, General John Alexander Logan, Civil War hero, Illinois Senator and Congressman, and leader of the Grand Army of the Republic, authored the Decoration Day proclamation, "The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land. In this observance no form or ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit." This led to the establishment of Decoration Day, now Memorial Day, as a national holiday.

Fast forward to 1942, when Logan's grandson, Tucsonan John A. Logan III, donated a large collection of Plains and Southwestern Indian materials to the Arizona State Museum. The majority of these had been collected by his grandfather, who became a U.S. Senator in 1871 and served on fact-finding commissions as a member of the Indian Affairs Committee. General Logan took a number of trips to the Southwest, on official business as part of his service on the committee, and to visit his daughter Dollie and son-in-law William F. Tucker who lived in New Mexico. Logan had arranged for his son-in-law to be assigned as a quarter master at Ft. Wingate (near Gallup). It is assumed that he purchased or was given the southwestern materials while on one of these visits.

Logan's relationship to Indian people could be considered paradoxical. On one hand, Logan felt that the answer to the "Indian Problem" was Christianity and a White Man's education. He publicly chastised the great Indian leader Sitting Bull for having boycotted a meeting with U.S. Army officials. On the other hand, he spoke passionately against the Indian Affairs Department being transferred to the War Department, on the grounds that the army's history of treatment of the Indians was despicable.

A number of places across America are named in Logan's honor, including Logan's Peak and Ft. Logan in Colorado, a county in Oklahoma, Logan College in Carterville, Illinois, and Logan Circle in Washington, D.C.  There is also an entire museum devoted to him in his birthplace of Murpheysboro, in southern Illinois. One of their major events is participating in an annual Memorial Day parade and festivities which celebrate the role of their native son in the founding of this most important patriotic holiday. The General John A. Logan Museum, which has materials from his life and military career, was not even aware that he had collected Indian objects until an ASM curator contacted them.

Ethnological Collections Curator Diane Dittemore would love to find out more about how the general came into possession of the objects. It seems unlikely that they were "war booty." Instead, such items were typically purchased by, or given to, visiting governmental dignitaries. One example is the pair of Modoc bows (see E-1444 and E-1445 in the slideshow below), with a burned dedication to Logan from Oklahoma trader D.B Dyer.

One particularly troublesome feature about the collection is that several of the pieces appear to have been made after the general's death in 1886. Further research into the lives of Logan's wife and daughter may unearth clues as to how this might be the case.

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