The holiday was originally celebrated on May 30th of every year. It was celebrated nationally for the first time on May 30, 1868. The date was specifically chosen, because it did not fall on the anniversary of any particular American battle.
Other notable dates in 1868:
- February 16 – In New York City the Jolly Corks organization is renamed the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks (BPOE).
- February 24 – The first parade to have floats occurs at Mardi Gras in New Orleans, Louisiana.
- April 10 – Battle of Magdala: A British-Indian task force inflicts 700 deaths and a crushing defeat on the army of Emperor Tewodros II of Ethiopia; the British and Indians suffer 30 wounded, 2 of whom die subsequently.
- May 16 – President Andrew Johnson is acquitted during his impeachment trial, by one vote in the United States Senate.
- May 26 – Fenian bomber Michael Barrett becomes the last person publicly hanged in Britain.
- May 30 – Memorial Day is observed in the United States for the first time (it was proclaimed on May 5 by General John A. Logan).
- July 9 – The 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution, is ratified.
- July 25 – Wyoming becomes a United States territory.
- July 28 – The 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution is adopted, legally, if not actually, guaranteeing African Americans full citizenship and equal protection and all persons in the United States due process of law.
- October 6 – The City of New York grants Mount Sinai Hospital a 99-year lease for a property on Lexington Avenue and 66th Street, for the sum of $1.00.
- October 10 – Carlos Manuel de Céspedes declares a revolt against Spanish rule in Cuba in an event known as El Grito de Yara, initiating a war that lasts ten years (Cuba ultimately loses the war at a cost of 400,000 lives and widespread destruction).
- October 28 - Thomas Edison applies for his first patent, the electric vote recorder.
- November 3 – U.S. presidential election, 1868: Ulysses S. Grant defeats Horatio Seymour in the election.
- November 27 – Indian Wars – Battle of Washita River: In the early morning, United States Army Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer leads an attack on a band of Cheyenne living on reservation land with Chief Black Kettle, killing 103 Cheyenne.
- December 9 – The world’s first traffic signal lights were installed at the junction of Great George Street and Bridge Street in the London borough of Westminster.
- December 25 – U.S. President Andrew Johnson grants unconditional pardon to all Civil War rebels.