Reference Blog Entries

Community fireworks evolved as a way to avoid mayhem and injury

Ann's picture

fireworks display over the U.S. Capitol buildingWe have yet another thing to thank the Founding Fathers for. Always full of ideas, John Adams envisioned fireworks as an important part of the Independence Day celebration in a 1776 letter to his wife Abigail suggesting, “It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.” Well said, Mr. Adams.

Early pyrotechnics were part of the “Glorious Fourth” in the largest cities such as Philadelphia and Boston as early as 1777, however, it seems that community-wide fireworks evolved not only as a way to share collective pride in our independence, but also as a practical way to control fires and general mayhem. In 1908, the American Medical Association reported that there were 5,600 injuries and “agonizing” deaths caused by fireworks that year–more than endured at the Battle of Bunker Hill.  In the July 5, 1854 review of the Independence Day’s celebrations from New York Daily Times (from our Historical Newspapers database), editors gave more column inch to “accidents and incidents” than to the ‘fire works’ and festivities!

Upper Arlington’s 4th of July fireworks go back to its very first community-wide celebration in 1923 at Miller Park. “Community News,” the local paper, reported that 1500 people enjoyed “wheels, giant skyrockets, aerial bombs, stars that parachuted downward, huge firecrackers, whizzers and sparklers filled the atmosphere with colors of every hue—and with no fatalities. You can read the full article on microfilm! This year’s show will surely be the best yet, and is set to begin on the 4th around 10pm in Northam Park.

Read more about early fireworks, and the history of Glorious Fourth celebrations in the Reference resources below:

And don’t forget, you can always contact a Reference Librarian by phone, textemail, or in person for assistance in using our databases and eBooks.

Yankee Doodle Dandy

Laura's picture

Poster advertising the movie Yankee Doodle Dandy with James Cagney

Music has the ability to stir our feelings of patriotism and national pride like nothing else. Whether it is the jaunty lilt of a Revolutionary War song or the regular beat of a Sousa march, we respond.

You probably know the story of Francis Scott Key and the writing of the Star Spangled Banner on the eve of the War of 1812, but do you know how Yankee Doodle Dandy came about? What are the stories behind other rousing favorites? An article on patriotic music in the Oxford Music Online database provides the backstories. Access it on the library’s website with your library card.

In addition, in honor of the 4th of July, take some time to listen to the following patriotic music CDs in the Media Department of the Upper Arlington Public Library: 

Logo for Oxford Music Online; white letters spelling "Music" on a dark background