As Tucson prepares to celebrate Memorial Day, few may be aware of an interesting connection between the UA and the man responsible for its becoming a national holiday.
In 1868, General John A. Logan – A Civil War hero, Illinois 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.
The general's grandson, Tucsonan John A. Logan III, donated a large collection – more than 100 objects – of mostly Plains and Southwest 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 subsequently served on fact-finding commissions as a member of the Indian Affairs Committee.
The history of the general's relationship to native peoples could be considered conflicted.
On one hand, like many in his day, Logan felt that the answer to the "Indian problem" was Christianity and a white man's education. He publicly chastised the great Lakota (Sioux) 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 history of the Army's treatment of the American Indians was despicable.
Diane Dittemore, ASM ethnological collections curator, with pieces from the Logan Collection: Jicarilla Apache moccasins and shirt, 1870-1883.
Logan has a museum devoted to him in his birthplace of Murphysboro, in southern Illinois. One of their major events is an annual Memorial Day parade and other festivities to celebrate the role of their native son in the founding of the patriotic holiday. The John A. Logan Museum, which features materials from Logan's life and military career, was not even aware that he had collected American Indian objects until they were contacted by Arizona State Museum curators. It is hoped that in the future, selected pieces from the Arizona State Museum's collection can travel to Murphysboro for a special exhibit.
Some of the more remarkable pieces from the Logan Collection include a pictorial beaded tobacco pouch that portrays a Sioux horse-stealing episode at the Cheyenne River Agency in the Dakotas, and a rifle and powder horn that were surrendered from a Sioux battle. Other cultures represented in the collection are Arapaho, Cheyenne, Jicarilla Apache, Kiowa-Apache, Mescalero Apache, Navajo and Modoc.
Arizona State Museum curators Diane Dittemore and Andrew Higgins have researched the Logan Collection, among other reasons, to find out more about how the general came into the possession of the objects. It seems unlikely that they were "war booty"; instead, such items were typically purchased by or given to visiting government dignitaries. One particularly curious feature about the collection is that several of the pieces appear to have been added after the general's death in 1886, most likely by his widow, Mary, or daughter, Dolly.
The collection's donor, John A. Logan III, passed away in Tucson in the 1970s.
More about General Logan and his collection at Arizona State Museum can be found in American Indian Art magazine's summer 2007 issue, pages 78-89.