Fourth of July at Epworth Park

Independence Day celebrations one hundred years ago were often boisterous, noisy affairs. However, the Nebraska State Journal of July 5, 1907, reported a “celebration without noise and the usual Fourth of July enthusiasm,” held the previous day at Lincoln’s Epworth Park. Not entirely approving of such a subdued observance, the Journal called it “a celebration without fire crackers without revolver shooting, without torpedoes and fire-fly, without balloon ascensions and horse races, without fakirs and without red lemonade”­perhaps due to the influence of the Epworth League, the Methodist youth group which held annual assemblies at the park.

“None of the hurrah and hilarity so characteristic of the nation’s birthday. Indeed [the] Epworth park celebration is introducing a new kind of Fourth that bids fair to be revolutionary in its character. Every kind of noise that is of yore a part inseparable from the right appreciation of the event was carefully guarded against, and officers scurried here and there, working overtime to prevent the over-joyous youth there from showing their regard for what our fathers did for us in the manner handed down to American progeny as the only proper way to do the deed. These special officers did right noble work, so that only occasionally did a stray shot or cracker betray any tendency to break over the stern mandate of the powers that be.

“Yet the whole thing was apparently a success. Full 4,000 people attracted by the natural beauties of the park or by the amusements advertised to be given there, spent the day and evening in the shade of the trees eating and walking, talking and laughing. . . . Perhaps this was one reason for the more than average sprinkling of bald heads and gray heads that were noticeable on the grounds and in the amphitheatre during the exercises. Younger people perhaps do not find so quiet a place attractive on the day of days for sports. And yet the sports at Epworth park were not to be sneered at.

“The management had attempted to provide a varied program that would interest both young and old alike. It was a success in that it certainly interested both extremes, but the overgrown boy or girl, and enthusiastic young people may have felt a little out of place. For the elders nothing could have been more entertaining than the speech of Dr. Wickersham and the talks of Governor Sheldon, Mr. Talbot, and Rev. J. W. Jones. The small boy and girl were delighted by the efforts put forth in the way of competitive sports by Mr. Pinneo of the city Y.M.C.A. But the love-lorn youths and the noise delighting youngster found the excellent jubilee singers a poor substitute for what they thought a celebration should be.

“All in all however the park furnished a place to spend a quiet, restful holiday for those who elected such a rest.” 

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