The Declaration of Independence was signed by the Continental congress, on July 4, 1776. However, Americans in New England had been sending notice of rebellion, in the form of bullets, to British soldiers since April in 1775.
The Revolutionary War took its toll during long months of fighting, deprivation, and death, but The Fourth was celebrated each year. To note the date in July of 1778, American troops were treated to a "double ration of rum" by their commander…General George Washington.
John Adams, an original signer of the Declaration of Independence and second president of the United States, believed that the Fourth would be “commemorated as the day of deliverance with pomp and parade and illuminated from one end of the continent to the other, from this time forward forevermore.”
Adams’ prediction was accurate with just a few exceptions. For several years abolitionists protested the Fourth by declaring the spirit of freedom had not reached all Americans. Black armbands were worn on the day. Horace Greeley wrote stirring words reminding the public that slavery was not to be tolerated in a country dedicated to freedom. Finally, in 1865 the 13th Amendment to the Constitution was passed abolishing slavery in all states of the Union. African Americans did celebrate the Fourth that year with activities on the grounds of the Washington, D.C., treasury; the land of the free had become a reality.
In 1910, some people thought celebrations should be moderated, as indicated in this newspaper article:
“With Independence Day comes the day of powder-poisoning and lockjaw, the day of hospitals and ambulances, the day of mutilation and fire and death. If there is anything that is sane in local people it is the growing revolt against our insane method of celebrating the fourth. It might be called “Incendiaries’ Day,” for on that day the fire fiend runs riot. Fire alarms, real or false have dire significance for they tire out the horses and the men during almost thirty six hours of constant runs, plus the wear and tear on the fire apparatus. Life and limb are in jeopardy even though the doctor will stand in readiness as the day and night reaps its harvest of victims. Tossing around explosives is folly almost too unspeakable to relate.”
The editorial did not seem to have much effect. The following day a notice was posted stating: “all the insane activities of Independence Day will continue as usual, but an extra supply of tetanus serum will be available.”
Vivacity in festivities on the Fourth of July is almost a requirement. One of the largest and longest festivals was in 1976 as the nation observed the Bicentennial. A magnificent international sailing fleet congregated in New York City and a wagon train wound its way across the continent to reach Philadelphia. Every small town and village participated in remembrance activities.
There is no limit on creative revelry. Independence Day in 2005 was observed with a unique Monster Ford Truck race in the small town of Sylvia, N.C. And, for those who want an early start on holiday rituals Gatlinburg, Tenn., has had the distinction of holding the first Fourth of July celebration in the nation, starting with midnight parades.
In the early 1900s, postcards were sent to friends all over the country in honor of this spectacular day of patriotism. Private homes and public buildings were elaborately draped with bunting and festooned with flags. After a day full of parades, music and entertainment, no expense was spared for evening firework extravaganzas.
This holiday belongs to the people of America, and no matter where they are in the world on the Fourth, Americans remember their homeland.
Fireworks, ordnance displays, picnics, bright colors and flags flying, that’s America on the Fourth of July. We are a country of diverse, vital people, coming together to create an amalgamation of the best in each race and nationality.
NOTE: The postcards for this article were all mailed before 1920.