Postcards probably don’t come to mind when you think of the fourth, but they were very popular in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It’s fun to look at them and imagine what life was like back then.
It wasn’t all picnics and marching bands. Fireworks have created controversy since arriving in this country from China during the mid 1800s. One 19th century senator asked why we were letting China get involved in our fourth of July celebrations. I wonder what he’d have to say today!
In 1884, miners in Colorado blew up the local post office because the town failed to supply them with fireworks. In the 1890s, fireworks, particularly those favored by ruffians, resulted in the formation of the Society for the Suppression of Unnecessary Noise.
This postcard shows a celebration of the fourth in Germany. Our holiday has been celebrated on every continent and in many countries.
In 1934 Richard Byrd celebrated in the Antarctica by setting off fireworks in a storm. It was 33 degrees below zero. Brr.
During the late 1800’s, the residents of American Indian reservations were under strict federal rules. Performing ceremonial or traditional dances required written permission.
However, no such rules applied to the Fourth of July and some tribal members held elaborate celebrations. Since Native Americans were not considered citizens until 1924 it’s hard to know how patriotic those early celebrations really were.
The Fourth of July was said to have brought out the “scalawags and suffragettes.” I don’t know much about scalawags but women played a big role in the celebrations. They touted their cause with speeches and marched in parades. Some town officials objected to all that talk about liberty and freedom for all, and insisted it be stopped.
In Chicago, police were called when a group of suffragettes appeared at a Fourth of July event.
Victorians never missed a chance to teach a moral lesson. Not ever, ever, ever.
The fourth was a time to don your Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes. The holiday was that special.
On a grimmer note, fireworks and rockets were available to even young children with often disastrous results. This led to a “Safe and Sane” movement that swept the country in the early 1900s. One popular card read “How to prevent your boy being killed on the Fourth of July-kill him on the third.”
Tell us about a favorite childhood fourth of July memory.
Have a happy, safe and sane fourth!