Memorial Day

CFM 2007.041.0017
May 30, 1922, Gift of Robert C. Cantwell, IV

Object Description:

Black and white panoramic photograph measuring 3 7/8″ high, and  11 15/16″ wide.   The words “Mrs RC Cantwell Jr and Mrs Story” are handwritten in blue ink over 2 women standing beside the statue on the viewer’s right.

Object History:

In 2007, Robert C. Cantwell, IV gave this photograph to Cape Fear Museum. Mr. Cantwell’s ancestors were a part of the Memorial’s 1922 dedication ceremony.

On Memorial Day, May 30, 1922, a World War I monument was unveiled in front of New Hanover High School, at Market & South Thirteenth Streets. The dedication was deemed “fitting” by the Wilmington Dispatch.  There was a parade. And there were speeches from a “flag draped speakers’ stand that had been erected in the intersection of Market and Thirteenth streets, just prior to the firing of a salute over the handsome monument that contains the names of the country’s [sic] world war heroes who fell in the line of duty…” American Legion Post Commander R.C. Cantwell presided over the event. Senator Pat Harrison from Mississippi gave the oration. Senator Harrison declared, “Your skies have been clouded with the smoke of battle, your land ravished by invading forces, and your streams have run red with the blood of your sons and fathers, but you have born yourselves as true sons of the south and Americans in every emergency.”

The Reverend W.W. Morton gave an invocation and he read out the names of the dead who “fell in the conflict overseas or in the line of duty…” Edward T. Taylor, chairman of the citizens committee, presented the monument to Addison Hewlett, chairman of the board of county commissioners.

When Taylor presented the memorial to the county he reportedly said, “May 30th has been set aside by the American legion as a day sacred to the memory of their deceased brothers in arms, who lost their lives in our behalf in the world war.  It is fitting therefore, that on this day we gather to pay our respects to the memory of the dead and to inspire by our example veneration for these heroes in the lives of the children today and of future generations.”

E.T. Taylor’s speech continued, “The citizens of Wilmington and New Hanover county, prompted by the desire to express their undying love and affection for those who gave their all for them, acting under the auspices of the chamber of commerce, raised a fund by public subscription from all sources—merchants, manufacturers, bankers, farmers, laborers and school children—for the erection of a monument which would perpetuate the names of each of the boys who made the supreme sacrifice. This work of love has been accomplished; the monument bearing the names of our dead heroes now stands before you and is ready to be presented. It has been erected at this spot in the hope and belief that it will be a constant inspiration to the school children of the county to make their lives worthy of these heroic dead…”

The May 26, 1922 Wilmington Morning Star reported that “The monument itself stands about 12 feet and is the only one of its kind that will be erected in the United States. Those who have seen it declare it to be one of the prettiest pieces of work in the entire country. It will stand on the east plaza of Market Street, in front of the New Hanover High school building.”

The monument was unveiled by “four little children, Paul Elliot Loughlin, Eleanor Loughlin, Helen Carroll, and Frank Williams, whose parents lost their lives during the war.”

General History

Before the “Great War” Memorial Day was mostly celebrated in the North, because it grew out of the Civil War. After World War I, Memorial Day was expanded so it honored veterans of all wars. Congress declared it a national holiday in 1971.

814 Market Street • Wilmington, NC 28401 • Phone 910-798-4370 • Fax 910-798-4382