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The New Independence Day

( Originally Published 1927 )



BY HENRY B. F. MACFARLAND AND RICHARD B. WATROUS

(As Observed at Washington, D. C., 1909.)

THE programme for the day provided for a display 0f daylight fireworks at 7th and Pennsylvania Avenue, a central point with park surroundings and no nearby residences, from 9:30 until 10:30 in the morning; then the public meeting at the same place, surrounding the new memorial of the Grand Army of the Republic and its founder, Dr. Stephenson, where Senator Owen, of Oklahoma, made an oration, the Declaration of Independence was read, the " Star Spangled Banner " and " My Country, 'Tis of Thee " were sung, and the school children sang other patriotic songs, and the United States Marine Band volunteered and gave music. After this there was another display of daylight fireworks. At least 5,000 people, chiefly in family groups, attended the meeting and saw these fireworks exhibitions, and the children were delighted with the shows new to Washington. At half past two in the afternoon on the great ellipse south of the White House, at least i0,000 men, women and children listened to a band concert and watched another hour's exhibition of the daylight fireworks, the grown-ups enjoying, as much as the children, the flags, balloons, paper animals, birds and fishes, liberated by the bombs high in air. Later in the after-noon a fine parade of automobiles decorated with flags and flowers, and arranged by the Washington Post, and for which it gave most of the prizes, passed up and down Pennsylvania Avenue, crowded by spectators, and around the Capitol and White House and down to Potomac Park where the judges awarded the prizes. In the evening there was an elaborate display of fireworks on the ellipse south of the White House, followed by a beautiful illumination 0f Pennsylvania Avenue. The newspapers estimated that between 40,000 and 50,000 people saw these night exhibitions. Never was there a more cheerful or good-tempered crowd. Apparently the young and old thoroughly enjoyed the whole day which had a picnic character for most of them. Several of the suburban communities organized their own fireworks exhibitions and some had public meetings as well.

The experience of the day suggested additions and improvements for the celebration of the next Independence Day. Historical pageants, a regatta, more field sports, more band concerts, and a wider distribution of the celebration points are among the things suggested for next year. The Joint Commit-tee on Arrangements has already taken steps to provide a permanent organization to prepare for future celebrations, the Commissioners having announced at once that there will be no repeal or amendment of the regulation prohibiting the old barbaric methods of celebrating the day. The new order of things met the approval of President Taft who, upon being told by the Chairman of the Joint Committee, the plans for the celebration, wrote the following letter, which was read at the public meeting :

THE WHITE HOUSE, WASHINGTON, July 3, 1909.

My Dear Mr. Macfarland:

I have your letter of July 1st with respect to the celebration of the Fourth of July. I am very sorry that I shall not be in the city on that day because of a previous engagement; but I am heartily in sympathy with the movement to rid the celebration of our country's natal day of those distressing accidents that might be avoided and are merely due to a recklessness against which the public protest cannot be too emphatic.

Very sincerely yours,

(Signed) WM. H. Tarr.

Hon. Henry B. F. Macfarland,

Commissioner of the District of Columbia.

This letter, sent out by the Press Association with a brief account of the celebration, must have helped the cause of the " safe and sane " celebration of Independence Day everywhere.



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