Two celebrations of American Independence Day offers later readers a look at two ways Independence Day was celebrated in 19th-century America, and reminded 19th-century readers of Youth’s Companion that virtue and duty were better than mindless pleasure.
Two Celebrations of American Independence Day (from Youth’s Companion, July 23, 1846; p. 48)
“Independent Day in Boston”

Boston, July 6th, 1846.

My Dear Ellen,—Although I know you love the country much more than the city, this warm weather, yet I think you would have been compensated for leaving the beautiful hills of B. on the glorious day of the Fourth, by the fine sights you could have seen in Boston. I wish you could have been here with all my heart; but as you were not, I will give you a little account of the proceedings on that day.

After being aroused from our beds by the bells and guns, the first object of interest was the Floral Procession. Every body in Boston that could leave home, and every body out of the city that could come in, appeared to assemble on or near the common. The children belonging to the Warrn street Chapel, and many children from the neighboring towns, met at the Chapel, with great quantities of flowers, and after arranging them tastefully in wreaths and bouquets, they marched through the principal streets, to the Botanic garden, at the foot of the Common, where they were to have a Fair, in order to sell their flowers.

At an early hour the common was covered with people; but as I thought it would be much pleasanter to be out of the crowd, I went to the house of a friend in Beacon street, from which I could obtain an excellent view of the procession. Between eight and nine o’clock, the Procession came, attended by a band of music. Each child carried a beautiful bouquet of fresh flowers, and the girls wore wreaths around their hats, which gave them a charming appearance. Some carried beautiful moss baskets, filled with flowers, and others little ladders, with the flower baskets hanging fom every round.

But the most striking thing in the procession was the representation of the Four Seasons. First came a waggon, in which stood a little farmer, with his plough and spade, all ready to begin his spring work. This was to represent Spring. Next came a miniature hay-field. A little girl in white was seated on a hay-cock, and the young farmer (whether he was meant for her brother or lover I do not know,) stood beside her with a rake in his hand, meaning to get in the hay before the rain. This represented Summer. Next came a sheaf of wheat all ready to be harvested, and promising a fruitful season, while a very small boy, dressed in farmer’s clothes, stood beside it with a scythe in his hand, looking as if he had been very hard at work. This represented Autumn. The next object excited a general shout of laughter. The top of a waggon was covered with icicles, hanging down over a little old man, with long white hair and beard, trembling from head to foot, seated upon the snow. At his feet was a little old woman, who was apparently almost frozen to death. She had on a scarlet cloak and hood, with which she was trying to keep warm. It was, I assure you, a laughable sight on a warm day in July, to see this little creature wrapping her cloak and hood around her, as if the thermometer were below zero. I hope the child will not have the scarlet fever after it, but I fear that will be the result.

The exhibition of Fire Works in the evening was certainly more brilliant than the show of flowers in the morning. From sunset till nine o’clock, the rockets were sent up, and after that a great number of splendid fire works, none of which, however, I shall attempt to describe, except the last. There was a representation of a city, with towers and castles, and at the foot was the sea, whose waves were admirably represented. Ships of war attacked a large fort. Cannon balls flew in all directions, some from the ship against the fort, against the ship. The light of the cannon balls was very brilliant, and lighted up the city finely. After a hot battle, the ships conquered. The fort took fire, and blazed fearfully. It was a most perfect representation of a battle and conflagration. The red light shone upon the thousands of people, and lighted up the whole common. As it blazed higher and higher, the American flag was hoisted from the top, and then the fort fell, and the whole was a mass of ruins. A shout of admiration and applause rent the air, and then the multitude returned home, rejoici[n]g that the Fathers of the City had given them such a celebration of the 4th of July. But where the thousands and thousands of men, women and children, found beds to sleep on after 10 o’clock that night, no tongue can tell.

Yours truly,

W. D.

“Fourth of July in the Country”

To the Readers of the Youth’s Companion.

At the place of my residence, it was celebrated by a Picnic, reading the Declaration of Independence, speeches, toasts and so on, in a maple grove. Although these things are not wrong, in my opinion, yet as I had not much taste for them, I went two or three miles from my place of abode to visit a friend who lived on a farm, near a pond. Perhaps I should say there were two ponds, for it was connected for several rods in the middle by a stream not larger than a small river, and each part was large enough to be a pond by itself. When I had got almost to the house I saw my friend on the water in a canoe, but not far from the shore. So there I went, and soon we went to the house. On going into the door, my hat was knocked off from my head, on account of the doors not being high enough. There I was introduced to my friend’s mother. As regarded the appearance of the room, it was neat, but not showy in the least. The fire place was filled with hemlock boughs, and other things were in similar style.

Next the garden was surveyed; and currants eaten to our satisfaction. Now supper is ready, and after we were all seated, the master of the family helped himself and began to eat. Then said his wife, “ ‘Come Mr. Scriptor, help yourself, we don’t make any ceremony.” I did so; and when I was thirsty, I drank cold water out of the only mug on the table. When it was empty, which was pretty often, for a number drank from it, some one got up and went to a pump by the door and filled it again.

After supper we took a walk, having a rifle with us, so as to shoot any noxious bird or animal that we might see. Some crows presented themselves, but we could not hit them. After going into the schoolhouse, which we found pleasantly adorned with pine boughs; we returned to the house again.

A boat ride was then proposed, and two of us rode in a boat, and one in the canoe. Had a fine time, and found some white lilies. The next thing to be attended to was the chores. While they milked their cows, and fed their pigs and calves, I went and saw the dairy and the geese. In the dairy, which was in the cellar, was tub after tub of sweet yellow, Vermont butter, and also almost innumerable pans of milk. Among the geese, too, I found objects of interest, in the goslings, and especially, in an old patriarchal gander, who had seen the great age of twenty years, and was still a very smart goose. With your leave, I shall tell a short story of a narrow escape from death, which this old fellow had a few years ago.

Very early one morning, a great uproar was heard in the goose pasture. One of the boys took the gun and run there as soon as possible. There were two foxes there, and one had this same goose by the ne[c]k; while the other stood by, ready to help in case the goose was likely to escape. He instantly fired his gun, and down went both fox and goose. He supposed he had killed them both; but without stopping to see, he ran back and loaded his gun again, to wait upon the other thief. When he got there again, the gander was trotting round very contentedly; not having been injured by any except a slight wound in his neck occasioned by a bite from the fox.

By the time I had heard this story through, the work was all done, and family worship was attended to; soon after which we retired to rest, glad that we lived in a country in which we were not obliged to do as others do, because they do so, even on Independence Day.

Now do you not think I enjoyed myself as much as those who went to the Picnic? I had as good friends to visit as they, and a better chance to visit them—had as good a supper as they, and was not so much unfitted, by weariness, for the duties of another day.

As every story should have a moral, I will try and deduce one from this. See if it does not fairly follow from it.

Moral. Those things in which most are engaged, or which are most exciting, are not therefore most useful or pleasant. In other words, do not follow a thing merely because it is popular.

Scriptor Novus.

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