World War I in Lawrence: Independence Day celebrations have a military bent

Editor’s note: Local writer Sarah St. John compiles reports of what it was like to be in Lawrence 100 years ago during World War I.

“The eagle will scream louder this Fourth of July than ever, in spite of the absence of the resonant firecracker and the spectacular sky-rocket.” This was according to a front-page article in the Lawrence Daily Journal-World this week in 1918, as wartime restrictions affected the city’s annual celebrations of Independence Day. The article continued, “They’re letting General Pershing burn the powder this year, and to typify the nature of the Glorious Fourth ‘over there,’ the Lawrence celebration will be of a military nature.” The two local companies of state guards were in charge of the day’s program, with help from the Chamber of Commerce, which was providing coffee for those picnicking in Woodland Park. A recruiting station was to be set up on the grounds, and it was hoped that “the patriotic speeches to be delivered will move numerous young men to ‘join up’ with the guards.” Three boxing matches were to be held, with the admissions fees taken in to be turned over to the soldiers. Several other local celebrations were being touted as “old-fashioned” and lacking in elaborate preparations, in keeping with the spirit of wartime economy.

Although the Lawrence post office was to be closed on the Fourth, it would be decorated “like a battleship on parade,” according to another article. In addition to the Stars and Stripes, “the flags of eight of the nations now fighting with us against the Kaiser (would be) floating from the top of the Lawrence federal building.” The flags, which according to a recent order were of the same size and material as the American flag furnished by the postal department, had been made by local residents and included flags for Italy, England, Belgium, Canada, Japan, France, Panama, and Australia.


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