What July Fourth Means to History
Every July Fourth holiday I have experienced has been different from the year before. Some years I celebrate with my family in our backyard with delicious hot dogs and bright sparklers; other years I’ve enjoyed The Fourth at a friend’s house for a pool party. Most recently I visited my aunt’s house where we watched the community put on a spectacular fireworks display. While every year I celebrate the holiday slightly differently, the one similarity stringing through each one is the sense of togetherness. I unite with my friends, family and neighbors to celebrate the freedom of our nation. As we inch closer to The Fourth this year, it has me thinking about why we celebrate Independence Day the way we do; what was it like on the first Fourth of July?
The Origins of the Fourth of July
While interning here at Conner Prairie, I learned a lot about that first July Fourth and how our fore-fathers felt leading up to true independence. Apparently, the idea of complete freedom from Great Britain wasn’t always the goal. Even a year prior to Independence Day only individuals called radicalists were the ones who wanted to fully separate from the British monarch. However, as the hostility of the British in the Revolutionary War grew, by the middle of 1776, most Americans were ready to become fully independent from their mother country.
On June 7, 1776, Richard Henry Lee first called on the Continental Congress to make a motion of independence to the colonies. About one month later, five men including Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin, created a document to justify the colony’s separation from Great Britain. This document is famously referred to as the Declaration of Independence. Almost a month later, on July 2, 1776, the Continental Congress voted in favor of Lee’s resolution for independence. However, it wasn’t until two days later, on July 4, 1776, that the Declaration of Independence was formally adopted.
The Founding Fathers celebrated the adoption of the Declaration of Independence with joy and excitement. Cities held parades and bonfires for the community to come together and rejoice for their new found and declared freedom. With the parting of one nation, a new one was formed- The United States of America. Today, many citizens continue to honor the tradition to celebrate the holiday in similar styles with fireworks, parades, and festivals.
Celebrating the Fourth in Prairietown
Could you imagine what it must have been like to be a part of the celebration of freedom in the earliest days of our nation? Emerge into our nation’s early days of freedom by visiting Prairietown on July 3rd and 4th to participate in activities similar to what the first revolutionists experienced back in 1776. Listen to the reading of the Declaration of Independence, an homage to the way the first American citizens first publicly heard of its adoption. Watch and listen to the White River Guard run drills through The Prairie. Wear the same accessories as the citizens of Prairietown with handmade patriotic cockades, created in the likeness of the ones revolutionists wore, in the Civil War Journey. Try the Taste of the Past with Muster Day Cakes. Make friends within the community by playing friendly games of cornhole and water cannon fights taking place on the Civil War Journey field. Learn about the emancipation of all Americans with the Juneteenth Virtual Exhibit in the Lily Theater. Finally, commemorate the newest state of the union, Arkansas, by adding a new star to the American flag.
Independence Day is a special holiday for everyone. The Fourth is a day we celebrate freedom, unity, and community. Rediscover what this special date means to history with Conner Prairie. Tickets for The Glorious Fourth are free with general admissions. For more information on what the Glorious Fourth has to offer, click here.
About the Author
Karissa Wiegand is a marketing intern for Conner Prairie. Raised in Carmel, Indiana, Wiegand is currently attending college at Ball State University where she is studying Media Promotions and Management.