We Still Celebrate Our Independence Day Like We Did in 1777

last modified Jul 03, 2018 by Kathy Pinna
posted Jul 03, 2017 by Kathy Pinna
Although the 4th of July has only been a federal holiday since 1941, you’ll find some good suggestions from the far past when you're making preparations for this year. Not much has changed since the first 4th of July celebration in 1777: Fireworks, parades and drunken revelry! There are the parades in cities (from Nome Alaska to NYC); neighborhood block parties, barbecues; family picnics; and baseball games . . . as well as, of course, fireworks (although it was mostly gunfire in the 18th century!). Even the warnings about firecrackers haven't changed through the years (for instance, the 1910 Puck magazine on page 1 - which your pets will appreciate)!

Why the 4th of July? On July 2nd, 1776, America’s Continental Congress voted to separate from Great Britain. Two days later, on July 4th, delegates from the 13 colonies adopted the Declaration of Independence – written mainly by Thomas Jefferson. The Declaration, however, wasn’t signed until August 2nd of the same year. But since July 2nd was the day when the Continental Congress voted to declare independence, John Adams wrote to his wife that the 2nd of July “will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival” and that the celebration should include “Pomp and Parade . . . Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other.”

Why then do we celebrate the 4th instead of the 2nd? Because the custom of celebrating the Declaration rather than the actual decision became a custom early on. Previously, colonists had celebrated King George III’s birthday during the summer. In 1776, the King’s birthday wasn’t celebrated – rather, a mock funeral was held for him. And concerts, bonfires, parades, and the firing of cannons and muskets usually accompanied the first public readings of the Declaration of Independence. Then the next year, in 1777, Philadelphia held the first annual commemoration of independence on July 4th. Even George Washington – the leader of the Revolutionary forces - issued double rations of rum to all his soldiers to mark the anniversary in 1778. And so, through time, the Declaration of Independence became the focus of celebrations – July 4th – rather than the actual birth of the nation – July 2nd. Custom is often stronger than the actual history!

The small parade

1915 Nome, Alaska

Hope those aren't real firecrackers!!

1924

Firecracker warning from Marilyn Monroe

Yankee Doodle Dandy

1912

Happy 4th!

From Susan Hayward and Virginia Dale - 1940s

Getting ready in 1904

"Birth of Old Glory"!

1923 float

We don't know that this is the 4th . . .

But it should be!

1925

Boy Scouts on parade

1917

Watch out Joan!

Joan Crawford being "blown up" by a firecracker.

July 4th, 1922

Daughters of the American Revolution Celebrating the 4th

Lock those firecrackers in the stocks!

And look how happy the animals are! 1910

4th of July picnic

Missouri - love the mason jars.

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