Voices from History: Mid-Century 4th of July Fun
By Pat Schley, DDMF Researcher
We are fortunate to have 5 letters from 1840 to 1865 which gives us descriptions of how the Davises celebrated the 4th of July. Two of the letters are written from Bloomington, two are from Pittsfield MA, and one is from Chicago.
I began by searching the Pantagraph newspaper on newspapers.com to see if I could find documentation for some of the things that are mentioned in the later letters. The earliest year in which I could find mention of the holiday was 1851. As I went on, I found so many interesting things that I decided to broaden the scope of my search to 1851-1879, covering the years that David & Sarah Davis lived in Bloomington.
The earliest description in the Davis family letters of a Bloomington 4th of July is this excerpt from a letter from Sarah Davis’ mother, Lucy Adam Walker, who was in Bloomington for the birth of David & Sarah’s first child. He likely was stillborn in May, 1840, as he was not given a name. Lucy Walker arrived shortly after his birth and stayed until August 1840, when she and Sarah went back to Lenox, with Wells Colton as their chaperone/traveling companion, who was then known as their “beau”:
“ … I must give you ___ Children – a little description of an Illinois celebration on the fourth of July.
The day was not ushered in with disagreeable roarings of the Cannon. Nor was the continual ringing of bells sounding in your ears. At eight O’Clock in the morning a civil, modest, bell proclaimed to the Sabbath school, that ^they must meet at the Baptist Church – where they were formed a procession with – of two hundred children with a teacher to every six or eight schollars [sic]- and marched down Main Street, to the Methodist Church where an appropriate address was made to them by the Presbyterian Clergyman – and the prayer by the Methodist Minister.
From thence in procession to a beautiful spot in the Blooming Grove, where were very neat tables spread with cold hams – cakes of various kinds – Biscuits and pies – All the spectators were invited and partook of the rural repast. – After eating – the Declaration of Independence was read by Doctr Hobbs – a very handsome Bachelor – who did him self [sic] much honor ---
At 3 o clock the procession went to the Baptist Church and listened to a splendid Oration by a Mr Julius Sanford of New Haven - The evening was finished by a school exhibition - Mr Colton was one of the Marshals of the day –
I do not believe I ever saw half as many Children that conducted with so much propriety ^all was so still and every Arrangement systematically executed –
I do assure you the Bloomington Gentry do up these things in good style –…” Bloomington IL, July 21, 1840 (LL) LAW+SWD to GW + FWW *
The earliest year of Pantagraph articles is 1848, so I couldn’t find any accounts of the 1840 festivities.
By the 1850s, the general agenda for the day had standardized: wake-up bell or cannon shot, the procession, the speeches, and then the picnics:
FOUTH [SIC] OF JULY.
From present indications we are not only to have the 4th, but some demonstrations of patriotism in the way of celebrating the day in this place.
The different Sabbath Schools are to convene at the respective churches at 9 o’clock, and proceed without delay to the Congregational Church, there to form one grand procession, and march to Gen. Gridley’s grove, where the Declaration of Independence will be read and several addresses delivered.
The Sons of Temperance, will also turn out in procession, first meeting at their Hall. We have not learned at what hour.
At the conclusion of the Sunday School celebration an address will be delivered by Mr. Washington Wright, appropriate to the Anniversary of American Independence, and upon the growth and prosperity of the country. Mr. Wright is one of the Engineers of the Central Railroad and we may expect to hear an interesting speech. The Weekly Pantagraph, Wednesday, July 2, 1851, p. 2
As Saturday, the 3d, was generally chosen for the celebration of the Fourth, our city at an early hour was filled with strangers, each party apparently intent on enjoying a jubilee in their own peculiar way. The streets, thronging with “young men and maidens,” barouches blooming with Misses chanting patriotic songs – the Brass Band discoursing our National anthems, with other appropriate airs, carriages arriving and departing on their voyages of pleasure, presented a scene both lively and gratifying, and gave evidence that general happiness pervaded the hearts of all.
The ODD FELLOWS met at the Lodge room and formed in procession at 10 o’clock, A.M., with their regalia, emblems and insignia of office, preceeded by the Brass Band, from whence they marched through the principle streets to the residence of Dr. THOMAS, where they were joined by the order of the “Daughters of Rebecca.” Blooming Grove, being the place designated for the delivery of the oration, thither they repaired…A capital choir….was in attendance, who made the forest re-echo with their spirit-stirring melodies…On Sunday, the 4th, the Sabbath School children celebrated the day with becoming spirit…Bloomington has never before been so fully represented by the ladies as on this occasion, and such interest in the encouragement of the Sabbath School is a sure indication of the high state of moral cultivation of its community. The most perfect harmony was preserved among the children – no confusion or disorder disturbed the exercises – each one seemed to know and feel the propriety of decorum, and, better than all, understand and adopt the golden rules so eloquently impressed by their instructors… All in all, the celebration passed pleasantly away, and has left many a green spot in the memory of those happy children, which will live down to the winter of old age. The Weekly Pantagraph, Wednesday, July 7, 1852, p.2
On the 4th of July 1853, Sarah Davis was in her hometown of Lenox MA, along with her 11 year old son, George Perrin, and infant daughter, Sarah Worthington, known as Sallie, who was 10 months old in July. She was there to enroll George at Mr. Lee’s School for Boys and also to introduce her family to the newest member of the Davis family, young Sallie:
George was happy helping Will prepare his Cannon for the Fourth – Pittsfield MA, June 30, 1853 (ALPL) SWD-DD
This has been a week thus far of unusual excitement - Monday was duly celebrated by young and old – and the day was very propitious - The morning was rainy exciting many fears that the pleasures of the day would be marred - The result was quite the contrary - The dust did not annoy the numbers who marched in the procession - Three fine companies were out in different uniforms - The one I admired the most was of blue with silver trim - fire engines were decorated with wreaths of flowers, and the horses led by colored grooms – drest [sic] in white coats or blowses [sic] trimmed with scarlet - Two little boys smaller than George carried boquets [sic] of flowers formed in holders formed for the purpose - Then followed a procession on horseback – with officers in uniform cocked hat and all - They all marched to music - An Oration was delivered by Mr Dixon of Hartford at the Baptist Church - I did not care to go out in the morning – but at night Lucy staid [sic] home with Robert and baby – while we all went to see a grand display of fire works - North of Mr Rockwell’s house some ways there were several thousand persons present - A large black cloud in the North favored the display – Pittsfield MA, July 6 1853 (ALPL) SWD-DD
David Davis had accompanied his family much of the way to Massachusetts. He visited New York City after leaving his family in Berkshire County. On his way home he also stopped in Scranton, PA, to visit Sarah’s youngest sister, Cornelia Walker Scranton and her husband, Joseph Hand Scranton. The timing of his return to Illinois put Davis in Chicago for the 4th of July. It’s fair to say that Davis had mixed emotions about the festivities done Chicago-style:
I got here yesterday morning - & could not do any thing [sic] because it was the 4th . Such a firing of crackers I never heard. I should like George to have been here. He would have been delighted with the fire works off in the Lake = They were not as good as I have seen but quite passable. Tremont House, Chicago IL, July 5, 1853 (ALPL) DD-SWD
I got to Chicago 4th of July – City all agog – but nothing doing of any moment - The amount of liquor drank is incredible by gentlemen - Chicago is a very burly city - Bloomington IL, July 10, 1853 (ALPL) DD-SWD
The 1860s, of course, would bring the Civil War and many things would change as the war progressed. The week preceeding the last 4th of July in Bloomington before the war began started with a bang:
Struck by lightning. --- The dome of the Normal University building was struck by lightning night before last, and sustained some damage. Two rafters were torn out, and the covering badly injured. One of the eight posts which supported the tower was shivered to atoms. The current on reaching any part of the works covered with tin, did no harm, and of course all the injury was confined to that part of the structure above the roof. A few days will make all whole again. The Pantagraph, Tuesday, July 3, 1860, p. 3
One of the high points of every 4th of July in mid-19th century Illinois was the statewide competition between fire departments from various towns. It was usually held in Joliet or Ottawa but did occasionally move to a different town. The Bloomington engines, the Prairie Bird No. 1 and the America No. 1, usually brought home one of the 3 silver trumpets. These were awarded to the engines which managed to direct a stream of water the farthest distance.
George Perrin Davis and David Davis seem to have enthusiastically followed the Fire Engine Tournaments:
There is nothing new in town – except that Fire Engine no 1 – took Silver Trumpet at Joliet – Great rejoicings thereat – Bloomington IL, July 6, 1860 (ALPL) DD-GPD
THE BATTLE OF THE ENGINES.
We copy from the Joliet True Democrat the following notice of the “Tournament.” held in that city on the 4th inst., at which “Prairie Bird Engine No. 1” of Bloomington won the first prize…
The Undine, of Ottawa, mentioned in the list of competitors, we are informed is a magnificent machine in appearance, and cost upwards of $4,000.—Yet, with all her proud beauty, the “Prairie Bird” won and brought home to us the Trumpet. As the Undine bears the name of a “Water Nymph,” we suppose she must be classed with the gentler sex.—Our Bloomington boys always conquer the ladies. Hurrah for the Prairie Bird!
At 5:32 p.m. the trial was commenced by Niagara No. 1 of Ottawa. While No. 3 of Morris was trying its second stream [of water] an amusing incident took place. Their hose, which was of India rubber, pulled itself out of the pipeman’s hand and moved about in all directions, much resembling a serpent, in its evolutions, effectually clearing the ground of spectators. Had it not been for this accident no doubt this engine would have continued to maintain the position it held during the last six years. No other accident took place, except when America No. 1 of our city made its play…as they reached 194 ½ feet, and apparently were still gaining, the coupling where the hose is joined to the engine, made of solid brass was literally blown off by the immense force applied.
The excitement of the crowd during the trial was immense, and when America No. 1 outstripped its predecessors, the enthusiasm was unbounded…
Prairie Bird, No. 1 (formerly No. 11 of Chicago) of Bloomington, ended the programme, verifying the old saying of “last but not the least,” threw a stream 73 ½ feet beyond any other one on the trial, taking the first Trumpet. To America No. 1, of our city, was awarded the second prize, and to Niagara No. 3, (formerly No. 3 of Chicago) of Morris, the third…
It is estimated that, in addition to the firemen, who numbered over 600, there were over 6,000 strangers in the city. In the evening the whole city was ablaze with fireworks. The Northern Lights seemed also to participate in the celebration, and came out in full splendor….
After the Presentation [of the silver trumpet awards] three hearty cheers were given, and the Bloomington boys departed.
On each of the night trains some firemen departed, all in good humor. The ball [Firemen’s and Citizen’s]…was a brilliant affair, and passed off, like everything else, with the greatest eclat…
The Bloomington firemen (whose uniforms included red shirts) also seemed to be models of good comportment during a holiday which tended to include quite a bit of alcohol and rowdy behavior:
We must give the firemen credit for the good example they set. We saw many men reeling through the streets, but not one “red shirt” among them. The Pantagraph, Bloomington, Illinois, Wed, Jul 18, 1860, p. 1
The tournaments continued throughout the war years but in 1863 the Bloomington fire engines did not compete in the tournament, which was held in Ottawa that year. It is possible that they did not compete because too many of the men were away fighting the war:
Events of the Day.—Our cannon being absent on a shooting expedition against the “seceshers,” our national salute at sunrise consisted in the firing of a bunch of fire-crackers by a…juvenile, who had bartered his last jack-knife to secure the precious privilege. The example was so contagious that it spread like wild-fire over the city, and soon aroused the slumbering population.
James S. Ewing, Esq.,…made a brief speech…He said we were in the midst of strange and wonderful events. (Very likely.)…He looked for peace. He hoped the time might come when the flag our country might again float in peace with not a star obscured nor a single stripe erased. The Pantagraph, Saturday, July 6, 1861, p. 3
Another activity which became popular in the 1860s was “the excursion”. A number of railroad and steamship companies were offering various kinds of excursions. Some followed scenic routes; some went to nearby towns for some sort of entertainment (for example, the local 4th of July festivities at that town); some went to nearby lakes for fishing or to view natural wonders while walking or hiking. Day trips were the most affordable but others extended to several days or even a week or two:
Fourth of July Excursions!
St. Louis, Alton and Chicago
to and return from,
any Station on the St. Louis, Alton & Chicago Railroad, will be sold at all Ticket Offices of the Road, on the 3D and 4TH of July, ’62, good to return until the evening of the 7th instant. For which full fare one way and on-fifth additional will be charged. The Pantagraph, Friday, July 4, 1862, p. 1
The lake steamers of the Northern Transportation Company offer excursion tickets to go from Chicago to the St. Lawrence River…and other places, and return, over 3, 000 miles in all, for $30, meals and state-rooms included. This is a cent a mile, board and lodging thrown in. Cheaper than staying at home. The Pantagraph, Saturday, July 1, 1871, p. 4
In 1862, the traditional 4th of July program of events was cancelled. I could find no specific reason for the cancellation other than a seeming lack of enthusiasm for celebration, likely due to the war which was dragging on much longer than people had expected.
Just before the holiday, from June 25-July 1st, there had been a series of battles near Richmond VA, now known as the Seven Days Battles. This was a setback for the Union Army and marked the entrance of Robert E. Lee into the war. The battles ended with heavy losses, the Union Army of the Potomac under Gen. McClellan losing about 16,000 men and the Confederate Army under Gen. Robert E. Lee losing about 20,000 men. These battles are considered to have resulted in a Confederate victory as Lee was always on the offensive and McClellan’s army was always on the defensive.
It is also possible that the imminent call for more men to serve had dampened the festive spirit:
“94th Illinois Infantry This Regiment had its origin in the magnificent burst of enthusiasm which greeted Mr. Lincoln's call for more men, in the summer of 1862. It was organized, examined, inspected, mustered in and put into the field within ten days. It was composed entirely of residents of McLean county, and was usually called "the McLean Regiment". Largely through the exertions of the Hon. Isaac Funk and the Hon. Harrison Noble, the county authorities gave each enlisted man a bounty of fifty dollars, and also presented the Regiment with a magnificent stand of colors, costing five hundred dollars. Nearly all the Companies had as excess of men offered, and two Companies raised simultaneously for the purpose of joining the Ninety-fourth, were afterward mustered into other organizations. In several instances a father and two or three sons (in one case four) enlisted together, and there was a generous emulation who should do the most for the favorite organization. The full strength at muster-in was 945, and 149 recruits afterwards joined, making a total of 1,094. It lost 11 men killed in battle, had 45 wounded, 157 died, and 161 were discharged. The small percentage of loss, notwithstanding the active service and severe actions in which it participated, must be attributed to the rare skill displayed by Colonel McNulta in taking care of his men and preventing their unnecessary exposure in action, and to the very efficient medical staff, which was continually on the alert to secure the best sanitary regulations in camp, and assiduous in the care of the sick and wounded.” https://www.cyberdriveillinois.com/departments/archives/databases/reghist.pdf
There seems to be some opposition gathering in certain quarters to the proposed celebration on the 4th. We are sorry to see this… We want something to arouse the hearts and warm up the blood of our people, and how can it be more appropriately done than by a good, old fashioned celebration on the coming glorious anniversary? The Pantagraph, Tuesday, July 1, 1862, p.4
Well, it is concluded, done, and did that we are to have no celebration on the coming fourth. Strong efforts were made to fire up the hearts of our citizens, to arouse them from their Van Winkle slumber, but all to no effect… If we are denied the privilege of joining hands and hearts with our fellow citizens on that day in Bloomington, we will migrate to Towanda or LeRoy where they still hold the glorious old anniversary in grateful remembrance…. The Pantagraph, Wednesday, July 2, 1862, p. 4
To the boys, both large and small, who propose dealing in fire crackers and other powder arrangements, we say be careful, be cautious, how you handle them, and where you throw them…that none my suffer through your negligence. The Pantagraph, Friday, July 4, 1862, p. 4
By the next year, 1863, the 4th of July events were back and there was unexpected news to give the citizens of Bloomington cause for celebration. On the 4th of July, breaking news of the Union victory at Gettysburg hit the front page of the Pantagraph, greeting the revelers this way:
Dispatches to “The Daily Pantagraph.”
WE TAKE A LARGE NUMBER OF PRISONERS.
AFFAIRS LOOK CHEERING.
The Federals Victorious-Good
News for the 4th.
The Daily Pantagraph, Saturday, July 4, 1863, p. 1
It was an especially momentous celebration for the Davis family, as the Hon. David Davis is listed in the Thursday, July 2nd Pantagraph as being “President of the Day” for the 1863 program, a position he filled on several occasions.
In contrast, the celebration and the day itself seems to have been subdued for those in Sarah Davis’ home town of Lenox, Mass. Sarah’s mother was in a reminiscent mood and somewhat melancholy when she took time out of her holiday to write:
My Dear Sarah --
This quiet day differs much from the bustle of olden time when Cannons were thundering, Drums were beating, Girls were running from room to room preparing for ____ -- It rains a little – Even the Birds have not cheered us with their songs to day [sic] as usual –
One young Lady called on me for Flowers – Altho [sic] she culled a handsome Bouq^hquet, she regates [sic-regrets] soiling her dress and dampning [sic] her shoes &c – But ^it is not so stange [sic-strange] – we often pay dear for pleasure – And we see the Rose has it thorn – I found it true yesterday when gathering some choice ones to beautify my flower stand - Lenox MA July 4, 1863 (AL 5) LAW-SWD
Despite the good news from Pennsylvania, the details of life seemed to go on as usual for a 4th of July, as reported in the next issue of the local paper:
Lost Children. – Several children got separated from their guardians in the immense concourse of people …but as they in most cases were held up to view and public notification given, they were all… quickly recovered by the rightful owners. The Pantagraph, Tuesday, July 7, 1863 p. 4
In 1864, there began a sort of countdown to the Centennial of the American independence in 1876. This is the first year that the Pantagraph published the schedule of events for the 4th of July headed “1776” on the top left and the current year on the top right:
Throughout the 1860s-1870s there was a group called the Ancient and Austere Order of Avalanches. This was a time when fraternal orders were very popular, mostly among men although some had auxiliary groups for women. An example would be the Daughters of Rebecca, which was a women’s auxiliary of the IOOF. Some still exist today (the Masons, the Knights Templar, the Independent Order of Oddfellows (IOOF), etc.) but many others were only around for a short time, such as the Good Templars, The Temple of Honor, and the Avalanches. All that is known about the Avalanches is what can be gleaned from a few notes in the Pantagraph:
Avalanches.—Those who have enrolled themselves, and those who wish to do so, will meet at lower Phoenix Hall at 8 o’clock this evening, to make arrangements for coming out on the morning of the 4th. The Pantagraph, Friday, July 1, 1864, p. 4
Avalanches, Attention.—On Monday morning, at 8 o’clock, you are notified to appear in full costume at Dimmitt’s pasture. The Pantagraph, Saturday, July 2, 1864, "The
“The city was thrown into a broad grin by
The Band of Ragamuffins
known as avalanches, who, dressed in motley garb and riding the most angular of jail gothic steeds and the most dilapidated of all demoralized wagons, paraded the streets blowing horns of sonorous hideousness unequalled. One of the most noticeable novelties connected with this exhibition was the wagon bearing the sign of a well-known clothier and drawn by a dog team driven by that young Rarey of canines, Freddie Burr.” The Pantagraph, Monday, July 5, 1875, p.4
“For eighty years the anniversary of the 4th of July has been an occasion for honest pride to every true American. So universal is the feeling of exultation on this the birthday of our nation, that a man’s loyalty may well be doubted if he can neither show nor feel any emotions of patriotism on Independence day. The immortal Declaration of Independence, the record of our brilliant struggle with the cruel mother country, the story of the second war with that power, our whole history for a century, each and all come crowding through the memory to-day. Let these be meditated upon. Do not allow them to be forgotten.
But with all these, give place to the more recent glory, the new-born splendor that is to be wreathed about this holy day. Four years of gloom and national depression have passed since the question was anxiously asked whether this day was to bean anything in the hereafter. Four years of bitter strife have answered that question to the satisfaction of loyal hearts. To-day not a hostile flag floats in our land. Not a hostile band is known to be in arms against the Flag of our Union. Those who raised their bloody hands against that sacred emblem have been compelled by its magic power to yield and accept the fate of traitors, whatever that may prove to be. Our holy and sacred cause is providentially safe from assaults…Thank God that the 4th of July 1865, dawns upon a united nation…America is literally to-day the “Home of the Free and the Land of the Brave.” The Pantagraph, Tuesday, July 4, 1865, p. 1.
The war had ended at last and life was slowly returning to normal…a new normal, to be sure, one which would bring changes, both large and small:
To the Ladies.—We are requested to state that seats will be prepared for ladies at the grounds of the Base Ball Club this afternoon. This will entitle the gentlemen to the thanks of many who would not otherwise witness the game. The Pantagraph, Monday, July 3, 1865, p. 4.
This was an especially busy 4th for the Davis family – Sarah and 12 year old daughter, Sallie, watched the “battle of the fire engines”, a nephew of David Davis’ from St. Louis came to visit and to attend the annual Fireman’s Ball:
We had a warm day on the 4th The men who worked the engines labored so hard that I felt afraid they would injure themselves. We went down to the Office over the Bank – and saw all we could – The town was full of people – I think the engine from Springfield took the 1st prize, Ottawa the second – No one would compete with our number 6 –
David Walker came up and spent two days – He attended the Fireman’s ball – looked tired the next day – Your Father went to Chicago last Monday – Henry Winter was the Orator in C- on the 4th; gave great satisfaction. Your Father was delighted with the performance there – Bloomington IL July 9, 1865 (AL 6) SWD-GPD
The exercises in Union Hall were of a very imposing character. The vast building covering the whole of Dearborn Park had been prepared for the occasion…giving sitting accommodation for fourteen to fifteen thousand people…It was devoid of ornament save festoons of flags overhead and the following motto stretched along its front: The Constitution of the United States shall be the supreme Law of the Land.”… The filling of the Hall occupied a long time… Generals came first… then came the wounded soldiers… who were received with a perfect ovation… The platform contained about one hundred persons, prominent among whom were noticed: Hon. Henry Winter Davis, the orator of the day… Hons. David Davis and Thomas Drummond, Judges U.S. [Supreme] Court…. The Chicago Tribune, Chicago IL, Thursday, July 6, 1865, p. 4
Henry Winter Davis delivered an eloquent address in Chicago on the 4th, and took strong grounds in favor of negro sufferage and the Monroe Doctrine. The Hartford Courant, Hartford CT, Friday, July 7, 1865, p. 2
This would be the last public appearance Henry Winter Davis would make. He died suddenly of pneumonia on December 30, 1865, at the age of 48, at his home in Baltimore MD.
In 1866, there was what could have been a terrible accident the day after the 4th:
“A little before noon, on Thursday, quite a sad accident happened. The youngest children of J.W. Maxwell, Esq., Eddie, ten years old, and Charles, four with two or three others, went into the stable to play with [gun] powder.They had a bottle of powder, and some empty Roman candlesticks, and undertook to manufacture fireworks. They filled one and fired it, perhaps before they intended. The flames from their new made piece ran up into the hayloft, and set the hay on fire, and also communicated with the powder in the bottle. This burned two of the children a little and set fire to their clothing, so that before any one could put it out, they were both bured, Eddie not dangerously, though severely about the head and breast; but Charlie is terribly scorched by the fire, and lies in a precarious situation. The stable was burned to the ground…Beside this, great damage was done to the fine shrubbery in the vicinity. The total loss by fire is not less than two thousand dollars. [That’s about $32,200 in today’s dollars.] The Pantagraph, Friday, July 6, 1866, p. 4
I did a little research on Ancestry.com to see if I could find out if the little boys survived. I am glad to report that both boys lived to adulthood, married, and had families. Eddie (Edward Everett Maxwell) lived until 1938, when he died in Dorr, McHenry Co. IL, at the age of 81. Charles (Charles Elmore Maxwell) lived until 1954, when he died in Los Angeles, CA, at the age of 93!
1867 to 1869
During the last 3 years of the decade, the 4th of July celebrations followed the established pattern: parade, oration, picnics, fireworks, with the usual warnings from the police, and one historic event:
No Crackers.—Boys will read with sorrow the ordinance which we publish this morning, declaring the firing of fire-crackers upon the streets, a nuisance, but ladies and gentlemen will be pleased to know that they can walk the streets on the 4th of July without being suffocated by the vallinous [sic – villainous] smoke, or being in danger of being blown up by these little infernal machines. The boys have our commiseration. We advise them not to raise a rebellion in consequence of what may appear to them unjust and unconstitutional legislation, but, in the language of him who started out a penniless boy, remember that mercy to boys may be cruelty to individuals.” The Pantagraph, Wednesday, July 3, 1867, p. 4
Laying the Corner Stone.—We think that observing the Fourth of July for laying the corner stone of the new court house was a mistake. The ceremony is without question one of the most interesting that ever transpired in McLean County, but the observance of the Fourth, in other places in the county will keep many away who would have gladly been present…[in this paper]and elsewhere will be found an article addressed to those of the future, (should the contents of the sealed box, ever become known to posterity by the destruction of the building, as probably will happen,)…a copy of this paper [containing the letter to the future] will be deposited with the other articles… The Pantagraph, Saturday, July 4, 1868, p. 4
[For more information about this courthouse see: https://www.pantagraph.com/news/remnants-all-that-s-left-of-rd-courthouse/article_933721aa-d117-51a8-acee-3f5e368e1982.html ]
When the 1870s came along, it appears that the 4th of July celebrations became more organized by and under the jurisdiction of the city, unlike the earlier celebrations and activities which were organized by churches (the Union Sabbath School, the Catholics and the German Catholics, which were 2 separate groups, etc.), fraternal organizations (the Odd Fellows (IOOF), the Good Templars, etc.), and benevolent societies (St. Patrick Total Abstinence & Benevolent Society, for one), etc. There was more regulation as to the type of things that could take place and where they could take place. There also seemed to be more attention paid to safety and security:
The authorities of this city deserve mention as public benefactors for keeping barrels of pure ice water standing at each corner of the square, on the Fourth. Many a thirsty one has thanked them for this little act of duty. It cost the city but a trifle and it may have saved many a fainting body. The Pantagraph, Bloomington IL, Wednesday, July 4, 1870 p. 4
In 1870, the Firemen’s Tournament, which had previously been held mostly in Joliet IL, was held in Bloomington! It was the highlight of that year’s celebrations:
Chief M.X. Chuse has heard from the following places, which will be represented here on the Fourth of July: Springfield, Ottawa, Quincy, Peoria, Galesburg, Alton, and probably Pekin and Aurora…Other place are…practicing but it is not known whether they will come or not. The recent rains will furnish an abundant supply of the aqueous fluid for the use of the engines. If this should fail, they will fall back on lager beer. The Pantagraph, Saturday, July 2, 1870 p. 4
[By 1875, the firemen would have had no problem finding quality beer in Bloomington]:
on draught at George Hale’s, under the Ashley. The best beer made.
The Pantagraph, Monday, July 5, 1875, p.4
In 1871-1872, there again was no organized public celebration. Privately organized picnics seemed to be the order of the day, along with balls and performances in the evening. It seems likely, too, that many people were choosing to book one of the excursions mentioned earlier and were out-of-town for the Bloomington festivities:
Celebration at Home and Abroad
The observance of the day in this city was not marked by a public celebration, but various picnics and other gatherings were held…Hundreds of citizens also visited other places and attended celebrations. The Pantagraph, Thursday, July 6, 1871, p. 4
-- No fire-crackers to-day, boys. Every policeman is instructed to gobble every boy who goes about touching off fire-crackers. The Mayor was interviewed yesterday by some little girls who deemed the fire-cracker ordinance as interference with their “personal liberty,” and they were quite indignant about it. They will hardly organize a third party, or run a state ticket upon this issue, however. The Pantagraph, Bloomington IL, Thursday, July 4, 1872, p. 4
--Picnics at home will be held to-day by the Catholics at the Fair Grounds; by the German Catholics at Meyer & Wochner’s Gardens; by some of the Sabbath schools at Loehr’s Grove; by the Good Templars at McClun’s Grove; by the English at the Evergreen Gardens, and perhaps others of which we have not heard. There will be a ball at Turners’ Hall in the evening. Also a dance at the Opera House, and races at the Driving Park. One or two fishing parties will also go to Mackinaw. The Pantagraph, Bloomington IL, Thursday, July 4, 1872, p. 4
In 1873, the advertising stated that there would be an "OLD TIME" Fourth of July Jubilee at Bloomington, Ill.:
In 1874, notice was given that many of the merchants would be closing their businesses so that they, too, could enjoy the holiday:
Up town nearly all the stores of all kinds will be closed for all or a part of the day, so that the business men may join in the recreation of the season… The Pantagraph, Saturday, July 4, 1874, p. 4
The parades were declared a thing of the past and utterly foolish, an instrument of torture to attendees:
July Fourth will be celebrated right gloriously and yet right sensibly in McLean county to-day, and we hope will long be pleasantly remembered. Instead of the utter foolishness of parades in the blazing sun…and other methods of human torture devised to render the nation’s birthday a day of suffering to the people, we are to-day to have neighborhood reunions, picnics in the quiet and shady woods, social gatherings wherein the golden hours may be spent in tranquil enjoyment. In all parts of the county these gatherings are to be held in the pleasantest nooks of the woodland, in the shady dells where the breezes make sweet music with the rustling leaves.
Grand Fourth of July Picnic.
The St. Patrick’s Total Abstinence and Benevolent Society of Bloomington will hold a picnic at the McLean County Fair Grounds on Saturday, July 4th, 1874, for the benefit of their society. The committee will spare no pains to make this an occasion of great pleasure to all those who may attend. Come one come all, and help this young temperance society. The Pantagraph, Saturday, July 4, 1874, p. 4
How the Spirit of 1776 Surged
In the Bosom of Bloomington Saturday.
The City Crowded by Thousands of Visitors.
Grand and Succesful Test and xhibition of The New Water-Works.
The Heavens Illuninated With Pyotechnic Glory.
A Little Nonsense Now and Then is Relished by the Best of Men.
The Pantagraph, Monday, July 5, 1875, p.4
In 1875, hyperbole was the order of the day when describing the events, from the “surge of the Spirit of 1776 in the Bosom of Bloomington”, to the “Illumination of the Heavens with Pyrotechnic Glory,” to:
The Greased Pole
was conducted with a good deal of unction. At least forty tried its ascension which proved…difficult… At least fifty racked their brains for devices and their spines with exertion in striving to pluck the flag from the summit…The feat was finally accomplished by Henry Crieger, a chap of thirteen, who had sand in his soul and on his pants, and who, when he let go to spit on his hands, didn’t forget to brace up with his feet. The Pantagraph, Monday, July 5, 1875, p.4
The Unctuous Hog.
The greased pig created enough amusement for a month. The animal was…built more for running than for hams and sidemeat, possessing all the penetrating qualities of a book-peddler, the elasticity of a lawyer’s conscience, and the energy of an insurance agent. He had been soaped by the committee…until he was as “slick” as a hotel clerk… The Pantagraph, Monday, July 5, 1875, p.4
Judge David Davis again served as President of the Day for the Centennial Celebration of Independence Day and gave some appropriate remarks at the Fair Ground, including a reference to the President’s Proclamation.
In celebration of the Centennial, a special artillery display would take place:
The following artillery time table of the day was adopted:
At 4 a.m. thirteen rounds will be fired in honor of the thirteen original States.
At 9:30 a.m. ten rounds will be fired as the signal for the multitudes to gather on the square and for the procession to form.
During the day the gun will be fired at intervals at the discretion of Marshal Chuse and the president of the day [David Davis], reserving enough of cartridges to fire a salute of one gun for each of the States now composing the Union, which salute is to be fired at 6 p.m. The Pantagraph Monday, July 3, 1876, p. 4
The fireworks display was one of the featured events of the Centennial:
On motion the vote which directed the committee on Fire Works to erect their stands at the intersection of Main and Washington streets was reconsidered, and the sense of the meeting being again taken, it was believed that the intersection of Main and Jefferson streets would afford a better view of the fireworks than any other point around the square…It was decided by the committees assembled that the people of the city should decorate their business houses and dwellings. It is earnestly hoped that all will feel an interest in this matter and assist in making a display which will be creditable to the time and place. The Pantagraph Monday, July 3, 1876, p. 4
By the end of the 1870s, base ball, as it was then called, was part of the 4th of July traditions. The accounts of the games in the Pantagraph are remarkably similar to today’s. They even have box scores! In 1877, it was not one of the happier events of the 4th:
Willow and Leather.
The Most Interesting Game of the Season-Defeat of the Bloomingtons
The game of ball on the Fourth was a disastrous one for the home boys, who were beaten for the first time this year by an amateur club. The game was called at 3 o’clock with the visitors at the bat. Litts, the Dreadnaughts first batter, struck at the ball three times, failing to hit at all…Youngman then knocks a weak ball to short and was fielded out at first. C. Radbourn strikes and easy fly into the hands of the pitcher and retires, followed by J. Carroll, who duplicates his strike and the home boys again take the field.. The Bloomingtons did not play their average game either in the field or at the bat. After the first inning the game was a close and interesting one, and the large crowd in attendance felt repaid for their attendance. The Pantagraph, Friday, July 6, 1877, p.3.
The city of Bloomington took a break from the usual hoopla in 1878 and many seemed to find it a relief:
There was no formal celebration of the Fourth in Blooming, and the change from the usual tumult and hubbub of independence day, was a grateful one to the most of the populace. A large proportion of the inhabitants…went out of town to attend the celebrations at adjacent points, and the picnics and pleasure parties, semi-public and private, attracted many to cool and shaded retreats. Most of the business houses were closed…and had it not been that the air was convulsed by the hideious assortment of noises incident to American and Chinese rejoicing [referring to the fireworks], one might readily have concluded that the day was Sunday. There was very little drunkenness or disorderly conduct, --indeed the police had less to do than on the average day. The Pantagraph, Saturday, July 6, 1878, p. 4
The 4th of July 1879 found Sarah Davis back East traveling with her now-married daughter, Sarah Davis Swayne. Both women had been in ill-health during the winter and spring, so the hope was that the sea air would restore them to health. Sadly, in September of 1879, while visiting her younger sister, Fanny Williams, in Stockbridge, Mass., Sarah Davis suddenly became seriously ill with either a heart attack or a stroke. She died, surrounded by her husband and children, on November 9th, at her sister’s home, just 7 miles from her childhood home in Lenox.
* Key to Correspondents and Archives
DD = David Davis
FWW = Frances Mary “Fanny” Walker Williams, younger sister of Sarah W. Davis
GW = George Walker, elder brother of Sarah W. Davis
GPD = George Perrin Davis, son of David & Sarah W. Davis
LAW = Lucy Adam Walker, mother of Sarah W. Davis
SWD = Sarah W. Davis
ALPL = Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, Springfield IL, The David Davis Collection
LL = Lenox Library, Lenox MA, The Samuel Chapman Armstrong Collection
 Dr. W. C. Hobbs, dentist, teacher, fashion critic of Bloomington IL.
 Capt. Julius Sanford (1819-1879), graduate of Yale University, class of 1839.
 Wells Colton (1812-1849), law partner of David Davis; son of Rhodolphus & Love Wells Colton.
 William Walker Rockwell, age 14 years, son of Julius & Lucy Forbes Walker Rockwell, nephew of Sarah W. Davis.
 blouses – loose-fitting shirts with fuller cut sleeves
 A hat with the brim turned up in two or three places, especially a three-cornered hat; a tricorn.
 Robert Campbell Rockwell, not quite 5 yrs. old, son of Julius & Lucy Forbes Walker Rockwell, nephew of Sarah W. Davis.
 Sarah Worthington (Sallie) Davis, not quite 10 mo. old.
 Julius Rockwell
 Full of keen anticipation or excitement; eager.
 instant – of the current month, in this case, July
 David Davis Walker, son of George E. & Harriet Mercer Walker; cousin of David Davis. He became a prominent mercantile merchant. His granddaughter, Dorothy D. Walker, married Prescott Bush. They became the parents of President George Walker Bush and grandparents of President George Herbert Walker Bush. David Davis is their 1st cousin, 3x removed and 1st cousin, 4x removed, respectively.
 Henry Winter Davis, son of Henry Lyon & Jane Brown Davis; 1st cousin of David Davis.
Henry Winter Davis gave his oration at the Hall of the Sanitary Fair in Chicago IL on July 4 1865. See: http://www.google.com/search?source=ig&hl=en&rlz=&=&q=oration+henry+winter+davis+july+4+1865&btnG=Google+Search&aq=f&oq= for a transcript of the actual oration.
 Henry Winter Davis was in favor of giving newly-freed African-Americans the right to vote.
 The Monroe Doctrine was a foreign policy statement originally set forth in 1823 which created separate spheres of European and American influence. The United States promised to stay out of European business and told the Europeans to stay out of the Western Hemisphere's business. https://study.com/academy/lesson/monroe-doctrine-definition-purpose-summary.html
 3rd McLean Co. Courthouse….designed by architect Alfred Piquenard, who also designed the David Davis Mansion Illinois State Historic Site. Both buildings are in Bloomington IL. It was built in 1868 and destroyed in the 1900 Bloomington Fire. http://mcmhqr-arch.weebly.com/old-mclean-county-courthouse.html
[For more information about this courthouse see: https://www.pantagraph.com/news/remnants-all-that-s-left-of-rd-courthouse/article_933721aa-d117-51a8-acee-3f5e368e1982.html ]
 President Ulysses S. Grant