|Courtesy: BAM Hamm Archives|
This May 31, 1886 handbill details "exercises" at a Decoration Day program. Decoration Day was begun in 1868 by the Grand Army of the Republic, a veteran's group, to decorate the graves of soldiers lost in the Civil War. It became Memorial Day in the early 20th century.
The Grand Army of the Republic oversaw the event at the Academy. The veteran's group comprised soldiers who fought in the Civil War, primarily for the Union. In fact, Brooklyn's Grand Army Plaza was named to commemorate this organization.
The Reverend Henry Ward Beecher presided at the 1886 gathering (to which admission cost 50 cents). This brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe was a clergyman and abolitionist, and a prominent speaker sent abroad by President Abraham Lincoln to advocate on behalf of the Unionist cause. He is buried in Green-Wood Cemetery.
The Decoration Day slate included patriotic music with audience members joining on the choruses, as well as poems and prayers. While this event took place at the Academy's first hall, on Montague Street, it serves to remind us of the long, rich history that BAM occupies in the city and in America.