Archive for Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Notable Fourths

Independence Day happenings throughout history serve as signs of times

July 4, 2007


In 1934, members the Louisiana Legislature celebrated the Fourth of July by lighting firecrackers and throwing them at each others' feet.

New York state celebrated it in 1827 by emancipating its slaves.

And in 2000, Disney World celebrated Independence Day with a 1 1/2-ton cherry cobbler that looked like the Star-Spangled Banner.

Those are some of the highlights of a massive collection of Fourth of July celebration facts collected by James Heintze of American University in Washington, D.C. It's posted online at the American University Web site.

In some cases, the Independence Day celebrations reflect political or social issues of the time, or reflect the international tensions that were taking place.

In others, Americans found quirky ways to mark the country's birthday.

But in all the entries, the celebration snapshots offer a window into patriotism and traditions of the past.

How will history remember the Fourth of July celebrations of 2007? Only time will tell.

For now, here are some of the highlights of previous Independence Days.

On this day ...

1776 - The Declaration of Independence is read in Philadelphia on July 8, four days after it was signed. Other cities followed with readings, parades and artillery shots later in the month. In New York, the statue of King George III was torn down, and the lead it was made of was turned into bullets.

1777 - Philadelphia's July 4 celebration include elements found in today's holiday, including drinking of toasts, music, dinner, ringing of bells, discharge of a cannon, a parade and fireworks. Also in Philadelphia, windows of Quakers' homes are broken because they refuse to close their business on holidays that celebrate American military victories.

1779 - The Fourth falls on a Sunday and is instead celebrated on July 5, starting a tradition for years to come.

1781 - Massachusetts becomes the first state to officially celebrate Independence Day.

1786 - The Beaufort, N.C., courthouse burns down after it's hit by an artillery shell fired during a celebration.

1788 - Celebrations first become political as factions are fighting over the Constitution.

1791 - George Washington's only Fourth of July address, delivered in Lancaster, Pa.

1802 - The U.S. Military Academy at West Point opens.

1804 - Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, along with their entourage, celebrate the Fourth of July for the first time west of the Mississippi, in Kansas territory. Their journals say they fired guns at sunrise, ate corn and drank extra whiskey to commemorate the event. They also named two creeks - Independence Creek and Fourth of July, 1804, Creek (now White Clay Creek).

1808 - Citizens of Richmond, Va., decide that only liquor produced in the United States should be consumed on Independence Day.

1817 - Groundbreaking ceremony held for the Erie Canal.

1826 - Two signers of the Declaration of Independence - John Adams and Thomas Jefferson - die on the 50th anniversary of the document.

1831 - Former president James Monroe dies on July 4.

1835 - Shoemaker George Robert Twelves Hewes is honored in Boston as the last survivor of the Boston Tea Party.

1848 - The cornerstone of the Washington Monument is placed.

1852 - Frederick Douglass presents his speech, "What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?" on July 5 in Rochester, N.Y.

1854 - Henry David Thoreau gives a "Slavery in Massachusetts" oration near Boston.

1858 - The dam at Niagara Falls, N.Y., gives way during the celebration of the opening of the hydraulic canal. No one is injured.

1863 - Someone throws firecrackers among the ambulances carrying wounded Southern troops from the Battle of Gettysburg, causing a stampede of horses and panic among the troops.

1866 - A Nashville Banner editorial urges citizens not to celebrate the Fourth of July because of the recently completed Civil War.

1872 - Richmond, Va., publicly celebrates the Fourth for the first time in 12 years.

1876 - Centennial celebrations occur throughout the country, many lasting three days. Celebrations include Susan B. Anthony and others from the National Woman's Suffrage Association presenting their Declaration of the Rights of Women in Philadelphia; an Irish couple in New York naming their newborn child American Centennial Maloney; and Socialists in Chicago issuing a revised, Socialist-friendly Declaration of Independence.

1881 - The police chief in Washington, D.C., issues an order banning all fireworks in respect of the recent shooting of President Garfield.

1885 - Officials in Salt Lake City and leaders in the Mormon Church order flags flown at half-staff to emphasize their religious freedoms. Californians are angered by the act.

1891 - Cheraw, S.C., is the state's first city to celebrate the Fourth in more than 30 years.

1893 - A gunner in New York is arrested for inaccurately counting during a 21-gun salute. Twenty-three rounds were fired.

1895 - Katharine Lee Bates' poem "America the Beautiful" is published in the "Congregationalist," a Boston church publication.

1901 - Officials in Courtland lay the cornerstone of a proposed monument to mark where the American flag was first raised over Kansas territory, by Zebulon Pike in 1806.

1908 - Saratoga, N.Y., enforces the city's first ban on the sale and use of fireworks.

1915 - Kansas City, Mo., celebrates "Americanization Day" with 220 new citizens singing patriotic songs.

1926 - The country celebrates the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. In addition to parades and speeches, Monticello is formally given to the U.S. government.

1930 - The face of George Washington, carved on Mount Rushmore, is unveiled in South Dakota.

1934 - Fireworks cause a fire on the grounds of the Statue of Liberty. Also, the first fireworks display in Antarctica is set off by Richard E. Byrd; the temperature is 33 degrees below 0.

1945 - The American flag is hoisted over the Adolf Hitler Barracks in Berlin.

1947 - The Independence Day ceremony in Washington, D.C., is televised for the first time.

1960 - The 50-star flag is unfurled for the first time with Hawaii's statehood.

1961 - The flag that flies over the grave of flagmaker Betsy Ross is stolen.

1968 - Anti-war demonstrations occur near speeches given by Vice President Hubert Humphrey in Philadelphia and Gov. George Wallace in Minneapolis.

1976 - America celebrates its bicentennial with bells ringing at 2 p.m., when the Declaration of Independence originally was approved. Other commemorations include the largest number of American flags (10,471) flown over the Capitol in one day; a 69,000-pound birthday cake at Fort McHenry in Baltimore; and 7,241 new citizens naturalized in Miami, the largest ever at one time.

1980 - Fourth of July celebrations are made more somber by the American hostage situation in Iran.

1984 - A parade in Gatlinburg, Tenn., starts at one minute past midnight, making it the earliest parade in the country.

1989 - Flag burnings and pro-flag rallies take place in many places as the nation is debating a ban on flag-burning.

1991 - National Civil Rights Museum is dedicated in Memphis, Tenn.

1995 - Flags in Oklahoma City are lowered to half-staff at 9:02 a.m., the exact moment a bomb hit the federal building there 2 1/2 months earlier.

1997 - The Boston Pops Orchestra celebrates the centennial celebration of "The Stars and Stripes Forever" by John Philip Sousa, in Boston.

2002 - Celebrations are tempered by remembrances of 9/11 victims.

2004 - The cornerstone of the Freedom Tower is laid on the site of the World Trade Center.

2006 - The Space Shuttle Discovery lifts off at the Kennedy Space Center, the first such lift-off on the Fourth of July.


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