A Quiet July 4th

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

Saturday, July 4, 1914:  And quite a fourth it was. Saw not a single flash of even one firecracker.

Old 4th of July Postcard (circa 1914)

Old 4th of July Postcard (circa 1914)

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

Grandma’s July 4th celebrations seemed hit or miss, and very low key. The previous year, on July 4, 1913, Grandma wrote:

Wasn’t much celebrating done at this house today. I saw a balloon go up or rather I saw it after it had gone up. Saw a few fireworks this evening, but that was at a distance.

I can remember going out on the hill behind the barn when I was a child on the 4th to look for fireworks in the distance. Maybe Grandma’s family also went to a nearby hill and hoped to see fireworks from nearby towns in the distance.

29 Responses

  1. Poor Helena. A boring 4th of July.

    Sheryl, was it you who once shared an article about a town that decided not to use fireworks anymore and opted for lights instead?

    Diana xo

    • Wow, I’m amazed you remembered that post. I did it two years ago. I’m amazed and honored how long you and some of my other wonderful blogging friends have been reading A Hundred Years Ago.

      It was New York City. There was a lot of concern back then about the safety of fireworks (and electric lights were the new thing and considered more modern), so they decided to celebrate by stringing a hundred thousand Japanese lantern lights in parks, and turning the switch at a certain time to light them. Here’s the link to that post:

      Are Fireworks Old Fashioned?
      .

      • I knew it was you! It’s funny how certain things can trigger the memory of something else that you haven’t even given a moment of thought to since it happened… :D

  2. They wouldn’t have had as many fireworks displays like we have now.

    • Amazingly, I think that they had a lot of fireworks back then. I think that cities and towns sponsored some fireworks displays, but my general sense is that many people just set off fireworks on their own. Most of the news articles from this era are about how dangerous fireworks are and how they needed to be regulated.

      Last year I did a post that included an article from the local newspaper about how dangerous they were:

      Fireworks Dangerous According to State Fire Chief

      And, three years ago, I did a post about a Ladies Home Journal article that contained lots of fearmongering:

      Fireworks Dangerous! Regulations Needed

  3. It’s sad Grandma didn’t get to a firework nor balloon that year. I reckon back then the celebration with fireworks were more low key.
    I wonder if the nearby town had a picnic or festivities to celebrate the 4th.

    • Hey Sheryl,
      I hope you have very Happy 4th of July!

    • I wondered that, too. When I was writing this post, I did several Google searches to try to get a sense of what a typical celebration in a small town was like back then–and found several blogs that had pictures of 4th of July parades in the early 20th century.

      I hope that you also have a wonderful 4th.

  4. Sheryl, Happy Independence Day to YOU and thanks for many wonderful posts about Helena. They are truly amazing and I know she’d be very, very proud of you.

  5. I love this postcard – so colourful and old-fashioned! You always find the most gorgeous things from the past. xoxoxoxoxox

    • I’m glad you like the postcard. I have lots of fun finding things to illustrate the posts. So many of the old postcards are lots of fun and very colorful.

  6. Your post started me thinking about fireworks….my family lived in a very rural area…I’m wondering if my mother EVER saw fireworks at all….

    • What an interesting thought. So many of the holidays seem like they were celebrated in very low key ways in rural areas back then.

  7. It seems to me that most holidays have been turned into a bigger deal nowadays than they used to be. Even the smallest towns seem to have a parade and fireworks now–that just wasn’t the case, even when I was a child.

    • I remember that we had family gatherings some years on the 4th–and all of the kids had a wonderful time running around with sparklers.

  8. Near my home town of a few hundred, the volunteer firemen put on the fireworks in a field of clover right after it was mown and baled. My brother in law would park his pickup front and center in the first row. It was really close to the display. We all arrived later with lawn chairs in hand. Great shows straight up in the sky. Made your neck hurt.

    Happy 4th.

    • This brings back wonderful memories of one year when our children were young. We were driving home from a vacation on the evening of July 4th. We were either in northern Iowa or southern Minnesota when we saw some fireworks in the distance–and the kids wanted to see them. We drove to a field at the edge of a very small town–and got a very close-up view of the fireworks. Our kids still talk about that year. .

      It probably wasn’t the town you are describing–and I have no memory of exactly where we were, but it almost sounds like it could have been the same place–though the same scenario probably plays out in lots of little towns across the midwest.

  9. Happy 4th of July Sheryl. May yours be more enjoyable than Grandma’s.

  10. I’m not sure if there would have been less or more in those days. Not so many big expensive displays, I’m sure. But maybe more small town stuff. But if you didn’t go to town, you might not see them.

    • I also think that it would have been more small town stuff–and well as small firecracker displays at gatherings of families and friends.

  11. Happy 4th. Our flag is waving. WE all head for the highest point and look out to see fireworks in the distance, unless you are the ones in the distance doing them.

  12. I wish I could say that. Between hearing the ones from the river (we live about 4 miles from where the city has the celebration but the breeze must have been just right to carry them over) and then around the neighborhood till midnight, I do not care if I hear or see any more again!!

    • Whew, it sounds like a noisy evening. I’m surprised that they went until midnight. Around here things usually quiet down by 10:30 or so.

      • We just have some idiots who travel to NY to buy illegal fireworks and have their own show in their backyard, I am certain it is the same ones that blast their music so loud you can hear it blocks away.

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