16-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today:
Tuesday, July 4, 1911: The fourth of July is almost over and I have barely given it a thought. That shows that I am not given to celebration on this day having nothing to shoot up in the air. A good reason.
Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:
A hundred years ago the national media was highlighting the dangers of fireworks. The following is an excerpt of an article in the Ladies Home Journal.
The Killing of Children: 131 More Little Ones Added to the Fearful List
A FOREWORD: The figures given here can be accepted as authoritative. They are figures collated by “The Journal of the American Medical Association” of Chicago from returns sent to it by health officers, hospital superintendents, physicians, and other reliable sources in every part of the country.
The Editor of The Ladies Home Journal
One hundred and thirty-one children were killed either by fireworks or as the result of fireworks in the celebration of the last Fourth of July. This is a lower total than we have had since 1903, due to the rapidly growing feeling among the sensible part of the American people for a radical change of celebrating the day.
Wherever common-sense has ruled and fireworks have been actually and entirely forbidden the results were certainly splendid.
Trenton, New Jersey, for instance, prohibited all fireworks for the first time last year. Not a child was killed nor an injury reported. The year before 58 injuries were reported and 1 killed.
Cleveland, Ohio, where fireworks have been prohibited for two years, had only 1 injury last year, 4 the year before, while 93 were injured and 12 were killed the previous year when fireworks were permitted. . . .
The third city in America, Philadelphia, leads all the cities of the country with the blackest record for 1910: 409 children were killed or maimed in Philadelphia last Fourth of July. A creditable record the the city that is supposed to be the cradle of American liberty and patriotism! A conscientious effort made by a score of the leading citizens of Philadelphia last year to enact a prohibitive fireworks ordinance was met by the comment from the Mayor that he could see no reason why children should not be allowed their fireworks and their fun. “Their fun”! And this in the face of the fact that , during the short period of only four Fourths of July, THERE HAVE BEEN KILLED AND MAIMED IN PHILADELPHIA ALONE ONE THOUSNAD SIX HUNDRED AND THIRTEEN CHILDREN
A humane record in order that children may have “their fun”! Just how long the people of Philadelphia will permit their city to show the blackest Fourth of July record of any city it is difficult to say.
There are other cities too, whose people sadly need an awakening on this barbarous Fourth of July method of celebration. Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, for example, is co-equal with New York in presenting the largest number of children killed. . . .
There is but one way for a city to stop this fearful increasing roll of little ones killed and maimed each year. The responsibility clearly rests with city governments, since the employment of death-dealing methods of celebration is subject to their regulation. It is, therefore, up to the city governments to decide whether or not the maiming of thousands, the agonizing deaths from lockjaw, and the burning to death of little children by fire from fireworks are to be continued. And that a prohibitory ordinance is the only effective and permanent method is shown by the results in Baltimore, Washington, Cleveland, and Trenton.
But the people of every community must ask for such an ordinance and insist that it shall be passed. And now, before we get too close to another Fourth of July, is the time to act.
Ladies Home Journal (March 1, 1911)