Happy Independence Day to my American readers! So, how would you like to spend this holiday? Picnicking? Boating? Watching a professional fireworks display? Listening to patriotic orations?
If you answered, "No, silly, I'd rather read about death, dismemberment, and disaster," well, you've come to the right blog. Yes, it's time for the annual Strange Company 4th of July celebration!
In some of my previous posts, I've compared the 4th to a war zone. In 1910, the American Medical Association took me quite literally, and made a scientific comparison. And guess what? Yes, you'd be safer in the war zone.
|"Hutchinson Gazette," June 25, 1910|
This roundup in the "Dayton Daily News" for July 5, 1904, was typical post-4th newspaper reading:
Chicago, July 6.--According to dispatches from all parts of the country, 25 persons dead, 1384 injured, and a property loss amounting to $177,800 is the price which the United States paid for its Fourth of July celebration, and the deaths from lockjaw will probably double or triple the number of fatalities already listed.
Of the injured, 177 were hurt by firecrackers, sky rockers or other explosives, and nearly all the dead owed their fate to these. Cannon prematurely exploding brought death to two persons and injuries to 101; firearms, including revolvers and guns, caused the hurts of 171; gunpowder and dynamite mistaken for gunpowder severely hurt 220 persons, and the deadly toy pistol this year claimed 209 victims. Runaways caused by explosions injured 39 persons, and in such an accident a woman lost her life.
Chicago this year escaped fortunately in comparison with the past. A new feature was the absence of a death roll in Chicago, and but 41 persons were injured.
The fire loss throughout the country likewise was extremely small, the largest damage reported being $50,000 in Boston. Janesville, Win., suffered a $35,000 fire, caused by a skyrocket. Small boys fired the stick, and it stuck on the roof of the Rock River Cotton company's mill, where the blase smouldered for six hours before it was discovered.
Baltimore, warned by its disastrous fire, restricted the use of explosives as, it is reported, never before has been done in an American city.
The records of other big cities follow: New York--Killed by fireworks, 1; injured by fireworks, 20; cannon, 3; firearms, 20; pistol, 4; total, 52; fire loss, $1500.
Philadelphia--Injured by cannon, 12; firearms, 28; gunpowder. 106; toy pistols, 67; total, 271; fire loss, $7000.
Meanwhile, the "Billings Journal" for July 5, 1909, chose to look on the bright side.
By the 1920s, the movement to hold "safe and sane" Fourth of July festivities had firmly entered the American consciousness. People looked for ways to celebrate the holiday that didn't involve racking up long rows of casualty lists. No, by golly, this time everyone was going to make it out alive!
This worked about as well as you'd think. The "Montreal Gazette" for July 5, 1921 had a good laugh on their neighbors to the south.
New York, July 4. Seven men were drowned today at beaches in the vicinity of New York as hundreds of thousands of sweltering masses fled from the intense heat that has enveloped the city since Saturday. An unknown man, believed demented by the excessive temperature, committed suicide by jumping into the reservoir in Central Park.You get the feeling the Canucks were really enjoying rubbing it in?
One death from prostration was reported in the city, while numerous persons, overcome during the day's festivities, were revived at hospitals. Several minor accidents resulted from the premature explosion of fireworks.
The crowds that sought relief at the beaches yesterday and today were the greatest in the history of any of the nearby resorts. At Coney Island and other popular hot weather rendezvous thousands slept on the sand last night and a throng fully as great was following their example tonight. Police details at the beaches have been augmented and the patrolmen instructed to see that the sleepers were protected from molestation.
Although five degrees cooler than July 4, 1914, today was still among the hottest Independence Days in New York in recent years. A maximum temperature of 93 degrees was reached during the afternoon, which, according to weather bureau reports, is ten degrees above the average for this time of year.
The list of casualties due to celebration of the "Glorious Fourth" began to arrive in dispatches early In the day and indications were that the efforts to make the U.S. national holiday, "safe and sane" were not likely to meet with any greater degree of success than in previous years.
At San Jose, California, . Gladys Flatham, youthful celebrant, is dead and her playmate, Joyce McLaughlin, is not expected to live. Their dresses caught fire while they were playing with fireworks and they suffered severe bums despite the efforts of neighbors to save them.
During celebrations today at Springfield, Mass., a young girl was assaulted and badly beaten; Joseph Startari, also of Springfleld, is in Mercy Hospital suffering from severe knife wounds received during a fight in east Longmeadow. Two Italians In the same city engaged In a revolver duel, said to have resulted from a family feud. Neither were injured.
Lockjaw, resulting from the explosion of blank cartridges being used to celebrate the fourth resulted today in the death of William Drumm, 15, and Michael Santello, 14, at Norwalk, Conn. The sale of explosives for Fourth of July celebration had been forbidden in Norwalk, and the police are investigating.
Milwaukee, Wis., July 4.--Nine persons are dead in this vicinity as a result of fourth of July celebrations, two of them being overcome by heat. Six were drowned, while another was killed in an automobile accident.
Chicago, July 4.--Twelve persons died and a score or more injured as the result of the three-day fourth of July holiday. Two were accidentally shot to death, a three-year-old. boy died in a three-storey fall, five persons were drowned and four were killed in automobile accidents.
Philadelphia, July 4.--Three drownings, several heat prostrations and the highest temperature of the year marked Independence Day here. At 2 o'clock this afternoon the thermometer registered 96, the highest previous temperature this season being being 94.
New York. July 4.--Minneapolis reported Its first Fourth of July fatality this afternoon. George Wheelan, 24 years of age, died in that city today from injuries he received when he accidentally shot himself yesterday with an automatic pistol, which he was preparing for use in celebrating Independence Day.
Cleveland, July 4.--John Shollis, 69, was killed tonight, a victim of a Fourth of July celebration. He was shot through the breast when a neighbor placed a cartridge on the sidewalk fifty feet away and struck it with a hammer, according to the police.
So, forget the fireworks, forget the beach party. Who needs explosions or swimming parties to celebrate the holiday when there's good food and drink to enjoy? What could be more all-American like an ice cream party?
Glens Falls, New York "Post-Star,"July 9, 1887
New York, July 7.--There is now a strong suspicion that the twenty families who were poisoned on July 4 by eating ice cream furnished them by Ernest A. G. Interman, of Sixth avenue, were the victims of some of the confectioner's business rivals or personal enemies. Interman has been established in business in his present store for many years. He uses only pure fruit syrups for flavoring the cream. The cream is made in the basement, with an entrance from the street, and the door is nearly always open. Interman kept a big dog in the basement to keep intruders out, but on Thursday last the dog died with all the symptoms of arsenical poisoning. It is now believed that some one gave poison to the dog for the purpose of getting it out of the way, and that on the Fourth of July they entered the basement and dropped poison into one of the cans of ice cream. As most of Interman's customers buy mixed cream, the contents of one can would thus be mingled with cream from a number of others. The police and health authorities are both engaged in investigating the matter. All those who were poisoned by the cream either have entirely recovered or are out of danger.
Well, I wasn't hungry, anyway. Let's just pass around some ice-cold lemona...
|"Onaga Democrat," July 8, 1886|
That closes our July 4th, 2018. We all have our own individual ways of spending this day, but I dare any of you to top Mr. William Prendegrast's holiday merriment.
|"Weekly Bulletin," (Anthony, Kansas,) July 17, 1885|