Chronology of Fourth of July Celebrations during the 18th-20th Centuries along the Frontier and in the West

Researched by James R. Heintze. All Rights Reserved


1777- Likely the first celebration in the State of Tennessee occurred at Shelby's Fort, near Beaver Creek, when the militia there provided shooting exhibitions, an artillery salute, and a reading of the Declaration of Independence. (James B. Jones, Jr., Every Day in Tennessee History [Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 1996, 131-32]

1782- At Saratoga, New York, the "officers of the Regement" of the Continental Army celebrate with toasts and a "volley of Musquets at the end of each" (Jeremiah Greenman, Diary of a Common Soldier in the American Revolution, 1775-1783. Ed. Robert C. Bray and Paul E. Bushnell. [DeKalb, Ill.: Northern Illinois University Press, 1978], 266)

1788- The first celebration and presentation of an Independence Day oration Northwest of the Alleghanies, takes place in Marietta, Ohio (An Oration, Delivered at Marietta, July 4, 1788, by the Hon. James M. Varnum, Esq. Newport, R.I.: Peter Edes, 1788); perhaps the earliest celebration Southwest of the Alleghanies, occurs in Lexington, Kentucky, at an entertainment held at Captain Thomas Young's tavern. Kentucke Gazette, 5 July 1788.

1794- William Price hosts a Fourth of July celebration Southwest of the Alleghanies for forty Revolutionary soldiers at his home, five miles west of Nicholasville, Jessamine County, Kentucky; (Sarah Johnston Price, "July 4th, 1794 in Jessamine County, Ky.," Journal of American Antiques [July 1949])

1795- Rev. Morgan J. Rhees presents an oration "at Grenville, Head-Quarters of the Western army, North-West of the Ohio." Columbian Herald or the New Daily Advertiser 31 December 1795, 2.

1796- The first Fourth of July celebration on the Western Reserve occurred at Conneaut, Ohio. The National Cyclopedia of American Biography being a History of the United States (New York: James T. White & Co., 1896) 6:257-58.

1797- Elizabethtown, Kentucky, is officially established on July 4. ("History of Elizabethtown," City of Elizabethtown, 5 September 2002)

1799- Citizens of Pittsburgh celebrate with a "discharge of artillery from Fort Fayette," a military parade, and a dinner on the banks of the Allegheny River. (Claypoole's American Daily Advertiser, 15 July 1799, 3)

1800- Henry Clay gives an oration at the Lexington, Kentucky, Court House (Kentucky Gazette, 10 July 1800).

1804- The first celebration west of the Mississippi River is held at Independence Creek by Lewis and Clark (Mary Ellen Jones, Daily Life on the Nineteenth Century American Frontier [Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1998, 65])

1819- The first Fourth of July celebration in Medina, Ohio, takes place. William Henry Perrin, et al, History of Medina County and Ohio (Chicago: Baskin & Battey, 1881), 396.

1823- First July Fourth celebration in Pike County, Illinois is held in Atlas, and included an oration and reading of the Declaration of Independence. History of Pike County, Illinois (Chicago: Chas. C. Chapman & Co., 1880), 205.

1824- Fort Atkinson (Nebraska) celebrates the Fourth of July with artillery salutes, a military parade, and a dinner replete with toasts and music. (Missouri Intelligencer, 7 August 1824, 3).

1833- First celebration in Grand Rapids, Michigan--a casual affair with the ladies enjoying tea. Albert Baxter, History of the City of Grand Rapids, Michigan (New York and Grand Rapids: Munsell & Co., 1891), 167.

1838- Native American Sauk tribal leader Black Hawk gives a Fourth of July speech at Fort Madison, Iowa, in 1838 and it was printed in Eastern Seaboard newspapers (Alexandria Gazette, 7 August 1838, 2); Iowa is made a separate territory (T.S. Parvin, "The Early Schools and Teachers of Iowa," Annals of Iowa 3/5-6 [April-July 1898])

1840- Oshkosh, Wisconsin, celebrates its first Fourth of July ("Some Early Fourth of July Celebrations Held in Oshkosh," Oshkosh Northwestern, 10 July 1915). However according to Publius V. Lawson in History Winnebago County, Wisconsin: Its Cities, Town, Resources, People 2 vols. (Chicago: C.F. Cooper and Company, 1908) 1:217, the first celebration occurred in 1848.

1841- Charles Wilkes, U.S. naval officer and explorer, gives the first Fourth of July celebration west of the Missouri River in 1841 at a site near Sequalitchew Lake (now Pierce County), Washington (Commemorative Celebration at Sequalitchew Lake. Tacoma, Wash.: Vaughan and Morrill, 1906)

1846- The earliest recorded Fourth of July in San Antonio, Texas, takes place (Judith Berg Sobre, San Antonio on Parade: Six Historic Festivals. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2003, 36); La Crosse, Wisconsin, celebrates the Fourth of July for the first time ("First Fourth of July Celebration Held in La Crosse in Year 1846," La Crosse Tribune, 4 July 1927.

1847- The first celebration of the Fourth in California takes place at Fort Hill, near Los Angeles. ("After Fifty Years: Anniversary of the First California Fourth of July," Los Angeles Times, 17 June 1897, 4).

1850- Shasta, California, is the first town in the northern area of California to celebrate the Fourth of July (Benjamin Shurtliff, "Shasta," Overland Monthly and Out West Magazine 36/212 [August 1900]: 157-58); the first 4th of July celebration in San Jose, California, takes place. J.P. Munro-Fraser, History of Santa Clara, California (San Francisco: Alley, Bowen & Co., 1881), 359.

1853- The first Fourth of July celebration in Hartford, Wisconsin takes place. Those assembled sang the "Star Spangled Banner, and "My Country 'tis of Thee" ("The First Fourth of July," Hartford Press, 12 March 1907); in Cowlitz, Washington, a liberty pole is raised and the crowd there is addressed in French by "Dr. Pasquirer" who reminds them to thank "Lafayette for aid in our struggle for independence." ("The Cowlitz Celebration," The Columbian, 16 July 1853, 1.)

1855- Lawrence, Kansas, holds one of the largest celebrations in that part of the country, with a crowd of over 1,500 persons ("Addenda," Transactions of the Kansas State Historical Society, 7 (1901-02), 578-9 and Cora Dolbee, "The Fourth in Early Kansas, Kansas Historical Quarterly 10, February 1941: 42-43).

1856- The first Fourth of July celebration "west of the Big Woods" in Minnesota occurred and consisted of a bear hunt by several hunters. William W. Pendergast, "Sketches of the History of Hutchinson," Collections of the Minnesota Historical Society 10/1 (February 1905): 77.

1859- Denver celebrates its First Fourth of July at a grove near the mouth of Cherry Creek. Dr. Fox readthe Declaration of Independence, Jas. R. Shaffer delivered the orations, and music was provided by the Council Bluffs Band. ("Historical Sketch of Denver," Daily Rocky Mountain News, 6 July 1876, 1, 4).

1865- Helena, Montana celebrates its first Fourth of July, at Owyece Park, with an oration by George M. Pinney. ("Historical Sketch of Lewis and Clarke County, Montana, July 4th, 1876," Helena Daily Herald, 5 July 1876, 1.

1874- Modesto, California, holds its first Fourth of July celebration and music was provided by the Modesto Brass Band ("Modesto: The Early Years," Modesto Bee, 5 October 1995, 4).

1875- At Atoka, "Indian Territory," in Kansas, Native Americans celebrate with 3,000 persons participating (New York Times, 6 July 1875, 4)

1880- The first daytime fireworks ever exhibited in the country takes place at Woodward's Gardens in San Francisco ("Flying Figures," San Francisco Chronicle, 6 July 1880, 5); the first Fourth of July celebration held in Uintah County, Utah, occurs and "only eight men and women [were] present" (Vernal Express as printed in Roosevelt Standard, 14 July 1915, 3).

1883- The first recorded Fourth of July celebration in the Yellowstone region is held a few miles north of Fort Yellowstone at Livingston, Montana, in 1883, shortly after the Northern Pacific Railroad had laid tracks in the area; Buffalo Bill Cody's Wild West Show opens at North Platte, Nebraska (Appelbaum, 119); seven hundred Yankton and Sautee Sioux participate in a celebration in Yankton, South Dakota (Diana Karter Appelbaum, The Glorious Fourth: An American Holiday, an American History [New York: Facts on File, 1989, 119; Daily Argus, 5 July 1883, 2)

1885- A monument to President James Garfield is unveiled in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, with thousands of spectators present (Los Angeles Times, 5 July 1885, 1)

1887- The first Independence Day celebration in Yellowstone National Park occurs a year after the U.S. Army's arrival there to take charge of it for the next thirty years until the National Park Service is established (New York Times, 4 July 1887, 4)

1888- The cornerstone of Chico State Normal School (later California State University at Chico) is laid by the Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of California with Hiram N. Rucker, Grand Master mason officiating; the dedication of the first monument in the West of Francis Scott Key take place in San Francisco (San Francisco Chronicle, 5 July 1888, 8)

1893- Creede, Colorado, holds its first 4th of July celebration ("Fourth of July at Creede," Creede Candle,7 July 1893, 1.

1896- Palm Springs, California, celebrates its first Fourth of July ("Palm Springs Patriots," Los Angeles Times, 3 July 1896, 9)

1897- President McKinley is in Canton, Ohio.

1898- The Placer County court House in Auburn, California, is dedicated (see Placer County )

1899- The cornerstone of the new State Capitol in Helena, Montana, is laid (New York Times, 5 July 1899, 7)

1908- Sheridan, Wyoming, has a historic celebration, July 3-4, in honor of the visit of Gen. Henry B. Carrington. (Historic Celebration, July 3 and 4, 1908, at Sheridan, Wyo. . . . [Sheridan, WY: Post Printing Company, 1908]).

1911- President Taft is in Indianapolis, the first sitting president to be that far west on the Fourth of July.

1923- President Harding is in Meacham, Oregon, the first sitting president to be on the West Coast on Independence Day.

1924- Electric trolley service is begun between San Diego and La Jolla, California ("Celebrate Natal Day," Los Angeles Times, 5 July 1924, 6). 1927- President Coolidge is in Rapid City, South Dakota, the first president to vist that state on the Fourth of July.

See also, R.P. Hay, "Frontier Patriotism on Parade: Westward the Glorious Fourth of July!" Journal of the West 5 (July 1966): 309-20.

This page last updated March 2011.

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