Celebrating the 4th of July through Postcards


God Bless America Cowboy

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!



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29 thoughts on “Celebrating the 4th of July through Postcards”

  1. I think I could write pages and pages of 4th of July stories. I remember having cap guns every year and one year we, my brother and I, had a set of Roy Rogers guns and holsters. We were too young to be given ‘real’ fireworks. How we loved playing with those guns for several years. My mother’s family
    was very large and we often gathered for a picnic at my grandfather’s which was across the street from our small towns city park. My older cousins, all boys, used to scare me to death setting off fireworks near me.

    After I married and moved to a farm, my family often joined us here for special holidays like the Fourth. but I think I will save some of those stories for another day.

  2. Crazy that they wore their Sunday best for the 4th. Love the postcards and the stories behind them. Some crazy happenings – fireworks for little kids? Not talking about liberty and freedom? Such neat history, thank you for sharing!

  3. Hi Connie,thank you for sharing. You have some great holiday memories. I remember having a cap gun. They were so much fun and no one thought we would grow up to be mass killers. How times have changed!

    Have a happy Fourth!

  4. As a mother of three, I feel compelled to send in my dues to the Society for the Suppression of Unnecessary Noise. Now there’s a cause I can believe in and support. Ha!

    Thanks for another fun post, Margaret!

  5. Hi Susan,
    So glad you enjoyed the postcards. It’s always fun to take a look back. I wonder what future generations will think of us when they look back on this day.

    Have a wonderful fourth!

  6. Hi Karen,
    Having just left Vegas I can commiserate.

    When growing up my daughter never understood why I always asked for peace and quiet for my birthday. Now she’s the mother of three and guess what she wants for HER birthday. LOL

    Have a joyful fourth!

  7. I love these old postcards Margaret.
    I remember one really great 4th of July here at my house, the neighbors, at least two families with many children, came over and brought all their fireworks and we got all ours out and we had a show. The men in charge of the fireworks the women sitting, visiting, the kids running and laughing.
    It’s such a nice memory.

  8. I also remember my very best friend in the world blowing up a firecracker in her hand. Her finger was badly hurt but it healed okay, nothing drastic like being reattached or anything.
    But it always looked a little funny after that, a bit too fat between the first and second knuckle and she called it her Pregnant Finger.
    Which we always laughed about….when we should have shuddered from her having such a close call.
    Kids are idiots.

  9. Hi Mary, your story about your friend made me shudder. She’s one lucky gal. Kids can be dumb, all right. I can’t tell you how many close calls I had as a child. On the other hand, I don’t think I could have handled all the restrictions children have today.

    Have a wonderful fourth!

  10. I have always loved postcards and have sent many over my lifetime! I think it’s a fun way to just say hello! Your post was fun! Thanks for sharing!

  11. Hi Margaret, great info and postcards! I grew up in a fireworks-free down, but my grandma’s town approved fireworks. I so loved those little “sparklers”. And her town had a big fireworks show. I remember lying on the grass by a big watertower watching them turn to falling stars. Happy Fourth!

  12. When I was a kid, it was a tradition to visit this state park we had that put on a great firework display… we always had a wonderful picnic before and walked around the wildlife rescue zoo that was there… great memories!

  13. Hi Tanya,
    I loved those little sparklers, too. We learned really young to be careful with them.

    Up till a few years ago we always had fireworks on our street and the whole neighborhood gathered around to watch. Now they’ve all be banned.

    Have a great fourth.

  14. I remember always having sparklers and my daddy would shoot Roman candles and bottle rockets for my mother and I to enjoy.

  15. I just love these old postcards, Margaret! Seems people back then had cards for every occasion, didn’t they! LOL And some of the sayings they had…”kill him on the 3rd”??? WOW.

    Really enjoyed this post of yours.

    One of my favorite memories was how my dad would take me every 4th of July to a fireworks stand and we’d load up on all kinds of fireworks. We usually drove down to my relatives’ (one set of grandparents or the other–they both lived in the same area) and everyone would pool their fireworks. The men would shoot them off for the rest of the family to enjoy. I had a ton of cousins to play with, so lots of fun times on that holiday!

  16. I love these old postcards! What a great post!

    When I was young, we often spent the Fourth on my grandparent’s farm. Always humid with crickets chirping and lightening bugs. My dad would build a base of crisscrossed straws and tape a small tin dish of wax with a wick in it, then attach a taped up dry-cleaning bag over it. When the wick was lit, the bag would fill up with warm air and drift off across the cornfield — glowing. Never did it when it was dry so as far as I know fires never occurred. A fun memory.

  17. Hi Margaret. I sure enjoyed this post. I loved the postcards like these. I have had some I picked in different places. I also know there was a time when it only took a penny to mail one. Then even have some three cent stamps. I’ve written many postcards. I have some of the old Christmas cards that looked simular to these. Love them. Sure would like to win this book by you gals. I can share the way they want tho I don’t copy and paste. Tried many times and can’t make it work. I share the contest post or write about the contest, so can’t count that one. Daddy always told me it doesn’t take but one entry to win. 🙂 GOD bless.
    Maxie mac262(at)me(dot)com

  18. Hi Maxie, I’d love for you or one of our Petticoat and Pistol friends to win!

    I like postcards, too. Whenever I travel I always send postcards to myself with comments, memories, historical facts and observations written on them. They make a great souvenir.

    Have a happy fourth!

  19. Now that I think about it, my childhood fireworks memories are antiques too since it was over 50 years ago.. Running around the farm with sparklers, grandpa tying the roman candle on the windmill tower (at about 6 feet) and setting it off with his cigar, snakes, lady fingers and cherry bombs.
    And my great grandmother would throw firecrackers out an upstairs window on July 3rd, their anniversary.

  20. I remember going to watch the fireworks with my family. In order to allow all the suburbs to have their displays on The Fourth, the main fireworks were on the 3rd. We could watch fireworks for 2 days. I remember sparklers with my grandparents, as well. I loved watching the trails as I would move the sparklers around, all the lovely reds, greens and whites.

    In recent years, we have celebrated, while on vacation, we have seen fireworks in Florida–Disney does a great show, Washington, D.C.–great fireworks there, as well, but they don’t really compare to the fireworks at home, on the 3rd.

    This year we will be in Cincinnati. I had thoughts of baseball and fireworks after the game, but alas, no tickets available. Still the fireworks from the stadium will be wonderful.

  21. Hi Dora, Thank you for sharing your memories. I was in Washington one year for the fourth and it was great fun. I also saw them in Philadelphia the year of America’s centennial. Have fun in Cincinnati!

  22. My hometown always had a parade and carnival. The parade featured a truck full of snow which had been buried/saved for the occasion. We saw the fireworks over Lake Michigan! You could see several different cities at one time.

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