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The Malakoff News
Malakoff, Texas
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July 3, 1980     The Malakoff News
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July 3, 1980
 

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The Malakoff News, Thursday, July 3, 1980-7. .( ice "The Fourth" is firm :he synonym of But July 2 could well nation's birthday, and for ago John Adams 2, 1776, that the Con- meeting in a hot, came to an decision--one the patriots "rolls in on Although the Independence was pen- angered Congress, the voted on the crucial aeparation contained in a by Richard Henry 5 tell the story: "...these United Colonies are, and of announced the intent of the Colonies to right ought to be, free and independent be "free and independent," but it was States....and that all political connec- much more detailed, listing the tion between them and the State of grievances against the Crown, and it Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally was blessed with Jefferson's ringing dissolved." phrases: "We hold these Truths to be The vote on the Lee resolution, so self-evident, that all Men are created momentous because of its daring equal .... " challenge to mighty Britain, prompted And so the commitment to indepen- Adams to write his wife Abigail on July dence became official on July 4, and it 3, "I am apt to believe that July 2 will is that date that became fixed in be celebrated by succeeding American history and legend as the generations as the great anniversary beginning of the new nation. For festival." Americans interested in historical foot- That, of course, was not to be. On July notes, however, it should be noted that 4, after making a few minor changes, the Declaration was not read from in- the Congress approved the Declaration dependence Hall until July 8. And not of Independence, which Jefferson and until July 19 did Congress vote to have four other delegates had been drafting the document signed by the states' since June 11. Like the Lee resolution, it delegates to the Continental Congress. !: ,+ Apart from missing by two days the date when his countrymen would celebrate Independence Day, Adams' letter is significant for its confidence in the step that many members of the Con- tinental Congress thought might fail. As Benjamin Franklin remarked at the time of the Independence debate in Philadelphia, "We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately." But in his letter to Abigail, Adams displayed no uncertainty, predicting that in years to come independence would be marked by "...pomp and parade, with shows, games and sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other...." Yet the first anniversary would have gone without notice had it not been for a Philadelphia resident who realized that the one-year mark was approaching. Celebration plans were quickly pulled together, and according to an account by Adams, bells rang all day, bonfires and fireworks lit up the night and 13- gun salutes from warships in the harbor tore the air. A mid-afternoon dinner in a local tavern was accompanied by music and toasts. That was followed by a parade of soldiers and the lighting of candles in city windows. As the revolutionary army disban- ded, soldiers returned home and pioneers began moving West, the idea of celebrating the Fourth spread to other areas of the new nation. However, "by the time of the 50th an- niversary in 1826, many were questioning the way of celebrating in- dependence," according to sociologist Shirley Cherkasky, who is responsible for July Fourth research in the Smith,onion Institution's Division of Performing Arts. By then, for example, U. S. leaders believed there should be more meaningful observances than the custom of allotting an extra ration of rum to the soldiers. A special celebration was planned for July 4, 1826 -- it would not follow the usual style of "frying chickens, firing away damaged powder or fuddling our noses over tavern wine," as one newspaper put it. Instead, dignitaries who had taken part in the events of July 1776 were invited to Philadelphia for commemorative ceremonies. Ironically, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, who had declined the honor because of ill health, both died on that July Fourth, exactly 50 years after ap- proval of the Delcaration. A number of customs that began with the early celebrations in Philadelphia continued for a century or more. A public reading of the Declaration of In- dependence, for one, was a popular event on most July Fourth schedules for years. Orations and parades also were customary. "Oratory was an art in the early days," Harold Closter of the Smithsonian's Performing Arts Division says. "It is said that Daniel Webster left his duties in Washington each year to go to his hometown in New Hampshire to give a two-hour July Fourth address to an audience of thousands." The popular appeal of a number of famous orators, including Webster, who quoted with the Greek with great fervor and patriotism, 1950's," Mrs. Cherkasky says, "many states had outlawed the use of private fireworks, and municipal authorities were presenting the displays." "The Victorian idea of exce~z," she adds, "pervaded the 100-year anniver-: sary in 1876 and helped to bring a' resurgence in patriotic celebrations of the holiday." An elaborate inter" national exposition of arts and manufacturing and products of farm; and mine, including exhibits from more: than 50 foreign countries, was~ organized on 284 acres of Philadelphia's: Fairmount Park. There were hundredS" emerged at this time. of large and small structures at the Orations soon turned into political park, with the main building aloneI speeches, and campaign promises by. covering 20 acres. The Centennial the candidates followed right along. "Traditionally," Herbert Collins, Smithsonian political history curator, says, "Fourth of July festivities have been used as a testing ground for politicians kicking off their cam- paigus." Of course, fireworks of one sort or another have been popular Indepen- dence Day attraction for more than 200 years, since the time of the early ben- fires and lighting of candles in Philadelphia. But firecrackers and tother exp]oaives in the hands of children and amateurs eventually came under attack from community leaders who called for a "safe and sane Fourth." In the early 1900', the Chicago Tribune launched a campaign for a safer holiday without deaths, injuries and fires from exploslves, and 1903 saw the citizens of Springfield, Mass., ban the sale of exvlosive devices. "By the exhibition's collection of equipment an ' products impressed foreign visitors;' demestrating that the United States hks+ become a major industrial economic power, ' " As this new giant grew older, it slowly. dropped the concept of the Fourth ~: a quasi-military exercise with cannon salutes and extra rum for the men in uniform. And during the 20th century+ particularly after World War II, tl~ holiday became firmly established as~/L family event. Picnics, barbecues and fish fries1 have taken the place of the customary~ recitations, patriotic speeches and/ long-winded oratory -- except for the~ 1976 Bicentennial during which Just~ about any kind of commemorative ac: tivity could be found somewhere in the+ country on July Fourth. 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