On Nov. 11, 1921, three years after the First World War ended, the nation held a funeral for an unknown slain soldier to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery. Before the burial at Arlington, the casket of the unknown soldier was shown in the Capitol Rotunda, where 200,000 mourners came to pay their respects. It was just one year after President Wilson had first commemorated Nov. 11 as Armistice Day, now known as Veterans Day.
The Washington Post kept record of the Capitol viewing:
Scarcely one in that throng whose eyes did not dim and whose head did not bow in prayer as he passed this new shrine of patriotism. Women predominated in the line, and after a brief pause before the casket, they would sob and pass hurriedly away.
Perhaps the casket contained the body of her boy, and it is possible that the mother of the Unknown did pass his bier, but she will never know. And so everyone who passed thought "it might have been my son, it might have been my brother, it might have been my sweetheart, it might have been my buddie."
The crowd of people overwhelmed the Capitol guards. The line of mourners wound "snakelike around both sides of the Capitol," and at the viewing's end, the entire floor of the Rotunda was covered with flowers.