Celebrating America

July 4, 2013 · Collections ·

For over 230 years, Americans have been celebrating the birth of America.  Although our celebrations of America generally culminate on the fourth of July, have you ever stopped to think of the ways we might celebrate America every day of the year?  Let me give you a few historical examples of how people in the past did just that…

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Sampler. 1821. Gift of Jane Tuttle. 1923.9.0

In 1821, Frederic William Tuttle celebrated the birth of America on his sampler (yes, some boys made samplers too, but that’s a whole other blog post!).  Rather than just putting on the date, he specifically stitched “Wrought In the 45th Year of the Independence of the United States of America.”  Even though America gained independence over 30 years before Tuttle was born, he, like other children, still saw the importance of commemorating the event on his sampler.

In the 1860s, the famous Kellogg lithographers put out a lithograph depicting two young girls decked out to celebrate America with red, white, and blue ribbons, and proudly holding an American flag.

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Our Colors. 1860-1867. Kellogg Lithograph. 1995.182.170.

This was not the Kellogg’s first lithograph celebrating America, nor would it be their last.  However, it is one of my personal favorites.

America was also frequently celebrated on quilts.  Some subtly, with piecing patterns named Wagon Wheel, Log Cabin, Texas Star, and Rocky Mountain, or with printed fabrics of Americana designs.  Others are less subtle and incorporate the American flag or other American imagery.

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Pieced Quilt. 1876. Gift of Susan Goodrich Motycka in memory of my father John Quincy Goodrich. 2013.74.1.

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Pieced Quilt. 1860s. The Newman S. Hungerford Museum Fund. 2004.17.1.

The American flag was not, and is not, the only way to celebrate America.  Our nation’s bird, the Bald Eagle, also shows up as a celebratory reference to America.  The eagle is used on everything from early American tavern signs to broadsides, in order to celebrate America.

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Sign for Tarbox’s Inn and Village Hotel. 1807, 1824. Collection of Morgan B. Brainard. Gift of Mrs. Morgan B. Brainard. 1961.63.21.

Here the famous painter William Rice used the eagle to symbolize America on this signed used first by Thomas Tarbox and later by Ephraim Ely Jr.

Even though these early Americans celebrated the birth of our nation in every-day objects, they still celebrated the particular day in July that marks the true beginning of America.  The fourth of July was celebrated with song, food, games, and fireworks just as it is today.

From samplers to fireworks, the American flag to the bald eagle, Americans have found many ways to celebrate our great nation on each and every fourth of July and the 364 days in between.

Ishmael Spicer’s Collection of Choice Songs. 1797. Manuscript 55836.

From samplers to fireworks, the American flag to the bald eagle, Americans have found many ways to celebrate our great nation on each and every fourth of July and the 364 days in between.

Exhibition of Fireworks! 1860. Broadside. Brdsd Medium 1860 F781f

Exhibition of Fireworks! 1860. Broadside. Brdsd Medium 1860 F781f

Happy Independence Day from all of us at the Connecticut Historical Society!!!

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