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Photos: How Washingtonians Celebrated the Fourth of July in the 1910s

Photos: How Washingtonians Celebrated the Fourth of July in the 1910s
Lady Liberty, Columbia, and dancers. Photograph via Harris & Ewing Collection (Library of Congress).

When we think of Fourth of July, we think of parades, food, drinking, and fireworks. At the turn of the 20th century, things weren’t very different. Americans celebrated Independence Day with a little too much fervor. Between 1903 and 1910, the American Medical Association reported that there were more than 1,500 deaths on July 4. Five thousand people were injured in 1909 alone. As a response, President Taft called for a “Sane Fourth,” and in the 1910s, newspapers warned readers about “raucous celebrations” and pleaded for people to “hearken back to the ‘sane’ celebrations of yesteryear.”

And now, looking back 100 years to the Independence Day celebrations in Washington, it’s hard to imagine these people in their bowties, uniforms, and elaborate costumes ever getting too “raucous.” Take a look at the photographs (via the Library of Congress) and see for yourself:

People and horse-drawn wagons at a Rock Creek Park horse show. National Photo Company Collection (Library of Congress).
People and horse-drawn wagons at a Rock Creek Park horse show in 1914. Photograph via National Photo Company Collection (Library of Congress).
Foreign soldiers at a Fourth of July celebration in DC. Photograph via Harris & Ewing Collection (Library of Congress).
Foreign soldiers at a 1918 Fourth of July celebration in DC. Photograph via Harris & Ewing Collection (Library of Congress).
Mrs. J. Wilmuth Gary standing next to an allied flag. Photograph via Harris & Ewing Collection (Library of Congress).
Mrs. J. Wilmuth Gary standing next to an Allied flag. Photograph via Harris & Ewing Collection (Library of Congress).
A crowd gathered at the Ellipse for a Fourth of July celebration in 1919. Photograph via Harris & Ewing Collection (Library of Congress).
A crowd gathered at the Ellipse for a Fourth of July celebration in 1919. Photograph via Harris & Ewing Collection (Library of Congress).
Crowds gathered around the Washington Monument for a Fourth of July celebration. Photograph via National Photo Company Collection (Library of Congress).
Crowds gathered around the Washington Monument for a Fourth of July celebration. Photograph via National Photo Company Collection (Library of Congress).
Photograph via National Photo Company Collection (Library of Congress).
Photograph via National Photo Company Collection (Library of Congress).
Fourth of July parade on Pennsylvania Ave. in 1919. Photograph via Harris & Ewing Collection (Library of Congress).
Fourth of July parade on Pennsylvania Ave. in 1919. Photograph via Harris & Ewing Collection (Library of Congress).
Betsy Ross float in DC's 1916 Fourth of July Parade. Photograph via Harris & Ewing Collection (Library of Congress).
Betsy Ross float in DC’s 1916 Fourth of July Parade. Photograph via Harris & Ewing Collection (Library of Congress).
A Fourth of July float representing colonial Williamsburg and the settlement of Jamestown. Photograph via Harris & Ewing Collection (Library of Congress).
A Fourth of July float representing colonial Williamsburg and the settlement of Jamestown. Photograph via Harris & Ewing Collection (Library of Congress).
A parade float in 1919 representing Czechoslovakia. Photograph via Harris & Ewing Collection (Library of Congress).
A parade float in 1919 representing Czechoslovakia. Photograph via Harris & Ewing Collection (Library of Congress).
A parade float representing Japan, with the Washington Monument in the background. Photograph via Harris & Ewing Collection (Library of Congress).
A parade float representing Japan, with the Washington Monument in the background. Photograph via Harris & Ewing Collection (Library of Congress).
A group representing Panama during the 1918 Fourth of July celebration in DC. Photograph via Harris & Ewing Collection (Library of Congress).
A group representing Panama during the 1918 Fourth of July celebration in DC. Photograph via Harris & Ewing Collection (Library of Congress).
A group posing for photos on the Capitol steps in 1918. Photograph via Harris & Ewing Collection (Library of Congress).
A group posing for photos on the Capitol steps in 1918. Photograph via Harris & Ewing Collection (Library of Congress).
Photograph via Harris & Ewing Collection (Library of Congress).
Photograph via Harris & Ewing Collection (Library of Congress).
A woman in costume for Fourth of July celebrations in 1918. Photograph via Harris & Ewing Collection (Library of Congress).
A woman in costume for Fourth of July celebrations in 1918. Photograph via Harris & Ewing Collection (Library of Congress).
Photograph via Harris & Ewing Collection (Library of Congress).
Photograph via Harris & Ewing Collection (Library of Congress).
Photograph via Harris & Ewing Collection (Library of Congress).
Photograph via Harris & Ewing Collection (Library of Congress).
Photograph via Harris & Ewing Collection (Library of Congress).
Photograph via Harris & Ewing Collection (Library of Congress).
Photograph via Harris & Ewing Collection (Library of Congress).
Photograph via Harris & Ewing Collection (Library of Congress).
A woman in a Columbia costume with a group of dancers. Photograph via Harris & Ewing Collection (Library of Congress).
A woman in a Columbia costume with a group of dancers. Photograph via Harris & Ewing Collection (Library of Congress).

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