Are Fireworks Old-Fashioned?

17-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Thursday, July 4, 1912:  Such a magic sound it has to some, but to me it is about the same as other days. We got a glorious rain this afternoon. I can’t help but rejoice over the very thought of it. It’s cooler now for one thing.

I bet that people a hundred years ago would never have expected that “ancient” traditions like fireworks would still exist in 2012.

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Poor Grandma–It sounds like an incredibly boring 4th.  Some places were livelier.

About 125 miles northeast of McEwenville,  New York City was holding a modern 4th of July celebration.

Here are some excerpts from the July 4, 1912 issue of the  New York Times:

CITY TO CELEBRATE ITS SANEST FOURTH

Music, Parading, Speeches, and Electric Light to Banish Firecracker Riot

Over the Old Fort Block House at 5:30 o’clock this morning the new forty-eight-starred flag of this country will be raised and its raising will be the start of this city’s celebration of Independence Day. This celebration will be the 136th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia.

It will represent weeks of effort put forth by the Mayor’s Committee and by countless societies and organizations, all joined in a determined campaign to free the marking of this day from the ancient rites of fire and powder and its ancient toll of death and wounds.

Instead of the steady popping of firecrackers and deafening crash of the cannon cracker, there will be parading, music, dancing, and speechmaking.

The prediction last evening, as the final touches were put on the innumerable arrangements, pointed to the safest and sanest Fourth in a city where the Nation’s big day has been growing safer and saner every passing years.

For safety Acting Chief Guerin of the Fire Prevention Bureau reported that for the last week he and his men had been on the lookout for fireworks stored away for sale. Confiscation is the rule and some $3,000 worth of explosives have been so put out of harm’s way.

The weather man, after scanning the heavens and weighing the evidence with unusual care last evening announced his gloomy fear that this city and the surrounding country would experience thunderstorms this afternoon or evening.

Quite as much as any other part of the celebration, the elaborate illumination depends on the holding off of the rain. If all goes well many parts of the city will be radiant with fantastic light, for nearly a hundred thousand Japanese lanterns have been strung to the trees in the parks and these were supplied with current last evening to try them out. As the dim trees in each park, loaded with festoons and strung ropes of these lanterns would spring into radiance with the turning of the switch, a shrill chorus of delightful approval would go from hundreds of children. The current is the gift of the New York Edison Company for the celebration and besides this, it has given the lanterns.

City Hall and its square is to be more brilliantly lighted than any, 6,000 electric light bulbs being devoted to this purpose.

12 Responses

  1. I can certainly understand rejoicing over some glorious rain. I was struck in the article by the “new forty-eight starred flag” of the 1912 celebration — great historical reminder. Happy Independence Day!

    • The forty-eight-starred flag was new because both New Mexico and Arizona had become states earlier in 1912.

      Happy Independence Day!

  2. I like the contrast of the 4th in a small area and the celebration in NYC. it was not that long ago (17 yrs ago)that Williamsport, did not hold a firework celebration now it is a huge event. I remember when we were first married (32 yrs ago) going to Brandon Park to watch the fireworks, we all sat on blankets and brought a picnic lunch to enjoy the early evening till it was dark enough for the fireworks to begin, no music, no games, no vendors just a relaxing afternoon. That only lasted a few years – not sure how many years they were doing it before we started to go and for years after there were no big events. By time we came back from Tom’s tour in the Army I can’t remember any fireworks till they started the one that is still going on. It is over crowded and no grassy area to have picnics, it is on pavement near restaurants and grocery stores and you need to get there when the sun rises to get a decent spot in shade. Anyway that said I much prefer your grandmothers 4th of July, home in peace and quiet enjoying a summer rain. And today we can sure use a summer rain to cool things down!! High 92 today and humid already at 11am. Happy Independence Day! Patty

    • The celebration at Brandon Park sounds like it was lots of fun. It’s too bad when wonderful neighborhood events like that don’t last.

      Holiday’s like this bring back so many wonderful memories. I can remember sitting along the wall of the old Acme store in Watsontown and watching them set off fireworks over the river years ago.

  3. When we lived in Idlewild on a lake some of the summer people with cottages would buy fireworks and set them off over the lake. it was nice to sit on my own deck and watch them, except when some people just liked to set off the loud, explosive kind that sound like a war.

    We got a good rain last night in Atlanta and it did cool off. It’s only 81 this morning at 11AM :-P

    • You comment reminded me of a dog that we used to have who was frightened when neighbors set off fireworks. He used to hide in the basement most of the day on the 4th.

      It’s still hot here!

  4. I know how your grandma felt. My July 4th is turning out a little slow and dull as well.

  5. We’d like to hear that ‘glorious sound of a good rain’ this 4th of July – not going to happen! ;-( But, a Happy 4th, nonetheless! ;-)

  6. How funny that they thought fireworks dangerous and old-fashioned and yes wouldn’t they be amazed to learn we still use them now. :)

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