The first officially celebrated Independence Day in 1777 was marked in a way that would be very familiar to most modern Americans. There was an official dinner for the Continental Congress, toasts were made and 13-gun salutes fired. There were speeches, prayers, music, parades, troop reviews, and fireworks. Ships were decked with red, white, and blue bunting.
A year earlier, founding father John Adams had written to his wife Abigail, “The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.”
In fact, his prediction was off by two days because Americans celebrated independence on the 4th of July, the date shown on the much-publicized Declaration of Independence, rather than on 2nd of July, the date the resolution of independence was approved by Congress. What’s more, despite its declaration, the country still had six long, hard years of war to fight before it truly gained independence from Mother England. When that time finally came the celebrations became an entrenched part of American life. To give a taster of how these celebrations have changed, here’s a photographic showcase of Independence Day from 1890 to 1990.
1890: 4th of July Parade, Denver, Colorado.
1911: Men wearing period costumes march in New York’s 4th of July parade.
1916: Little girl dressed as Liberty.
1919: Washington Monument 4th of July celebrations
1920: Packing a musket! Patriotic beauties show how they’d stick it to the Brits.
1939: The ‘Aquabelles’ take part in a fashion show showcasing bathing suit styles of the past, present and future at the New York World’s Fair.
1943: Troops march
1953: Children with decorated bikes ride in the 4th of July parade.
1965: Kids enjoying a 4th of July picnic.
1977: 4th of July picnic overlooking the mountains in Colorado.
1985: Getting ready to ride
1990: Huntingdon Beach beauty queens wave to the 4th of July crowd