Vintage July Fourth cards sparked with dark firecracker humor. In the late 1800s to early 1900s, people sent greetings for every holiday, including Independence Day. Advancements in printing, postage made mailing and collecting cards and postcards a fashionable trend.
Yes, there were lots of adorably sweet cards for every holiday. But there were plenty of choices for those whose tastes leaned to the dark side of the aisle. Victorian Christmas cards included children boiling in soup tureens and murderous frogs. Vinegar Valentines delivered stinging insults. Quirky Easter cards featured injured rabbits returning from war and cheating chicks. It’s no surprise that Vintage July Fourth Cards also packed a fiery punch with surprisingly off-color firecracker humor.
Independence Day Sparked With Rebellion
The day was June 11, 1776. The Second Continental Congress of the 13 Colonies met in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Their mission was to form a committee to draft a document that would formally sever ties with Great Britain. The people were tired of paying taxes to King George III of England with no representation in British Parliament. They tried to resolve their issue without conflict, but their efforts failed.
The committee included Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, Robert Livingston, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson who wrote the first draft. Eighty-six changes were made and the final version was adopted on July 4, 1776. The Pennsylvania Evening Post scooped the story as the first newspaper to publish the Declaration of Independence.
News of the Declaration of Independence triggered riots against Britain. In his book Thomas Jefferson historian David Saville Muzzey writes that on the night of July 4, the people of Philadelphia ripped the coat of arms of King George III from the State House and torched it in a bonfire. On July 9, they melted his statue into musket balls.
John Adams wrote a letter about Independence Day to his wife Abigail in 1776:
“It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.”
Vintage July Fourth Cards Reflect Rowdy Celebrations Of Their Day
If these Vintage July Fourth Cards seem outrageous, they reflected the tone of celebrations across the country during the 1800s and early 1900s.
Harper’s Weekly wrote on July 8, 1871:
“The night before the Fourth is generally one of intense excitement with the boys, and of anxiety to the mothers. The youngsters have their magazines of crackers and torpedoes in readiness to commence operations with the earliest streak of daylight. Those whose parents permit them to handle more dangerous toys have their pistols and miniature cannon in order. Country boys manufacture cannon from old gun-barrels, pieces of heavy lead pipe and even wood. Their ingenuity in contriving ways to make a rocket is one of the most conclusive evidences of the total depravity of boys. Their recklessness is something frightful. Nothing will teach them caution.”
Phillip Hone, who was Mayor of New York City from 1826-1827, wrote in his detailed diary (1828-1851) that July Fourth thrill-seekers engaged in raucous festivities, causing “the bitter annoyance of all persons of quiet habits and sensitive nerves.”
The constant blasts and explosions “would have led one to fancy that the city was undergoing a vigorous siege.” Potential danger did not deter celebrants. He writes, “it seemed as the whole population of New York had been seized with a pyrotechnic mania.”
According to the Irish Penny Journal, August 22, 1840:
“Roast pig” is the favourite “independent” dish, and in New York on the above day are “six miles of roast pig.” viz. three miles of booths on each side of Broadway, and roast pig in each booth! Rockets are fired in the streets, some running horizontally up the pavement, and sticking into the back of a passenger; and others mounting slanting-dicularly, and Paul-Prying into the bedroom windows on the third floor or attics, just to see how things are going on there. On this day, too, all America gets tipsy.—Captain Marryatt’s Diary in America.
Vintage July Fourth Cards Were Part Of The Celebrations
While few people send July Fourth cards these days, Recollecting Nemasket (Massachusetts) writes it was once the fashion. July Fourth celebrations in Nemasket during the 1800s got as wild and crazy as those in New York City and elsewhere across the nation. While most people enjoyed a quiet celebration, pranks like those played on Halloween were popular. Celebrations started at midnight with peals of the Methodist Church bell.
A local Nemasket paper in the late 1800s wrote:
“Later the bell of the Baptist church was rung awhile. Guns, pistols, crackers, torpedoes and tin horns kept up a continuous round of noise to the annoyance and disturbance of sober and quiet citizens.”
We’re hoping you have a blast of safe fun on the Fourth.
Racing Nellie Bly
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