With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic the country’s July 4 celebrations are a lot different than they normally would be. In many communities, including most of Iosco County, parades have been canceled, including many other events. Fireworks displays are still ongoing, but it is safe to say that the events this year are a lot different than in years past. In this historical feature that appeared in the June 30, 1976 edition of The Tawas Herald, the newspaper compared and contrasted Tawas City’s Independence Day celebration on 1876, the nation’s centennial, with scheduled events 100 years later during the bicentennial.
Many of the events were the same (in fact they tried to recreate the centennial celebration in 1976) but some were different. If you want to read about brass bands, and even sardine cans, check out this historical feature.
TAWAS CITY – “Tawas City – Tuesday, July 4, 1876 – the 100th anniversary of our national independence.
“Cannon firing at midnight and daylight; celebration held northeast of courthouse with reading of Declaration of Independence by S.G. Taylor and oration by W. C. Stevens; music by the Tawas City Brass Band;
“The calphumpians out in the afternoon; the usual amount of liquor drinking, but not much fighting. I went to East Tawas in the evening and attended the fireworks.”
These brief notations in the diary of Lyman B. Smith, sheriff of Iosco County from 1874 to 1879, described how the centennial of the nation’s independence was observed in the Tawases in 1876. This information, along with a printed program describing that “Grand Fourth of July Celebration,” provided the general format for the bicentennial observance in 1976.
The program, prepared by Mrs. James Machleit, chairman to be held Sunday, July 4 at the Tawas City Park, is only a few steps from the point where the 1876 observance took place.
Clyde Soper, general chairman, said that many members of the bicentennial committee would be dressed in costumes from the 1876 era and extends to a welcome to others to wear old-fashioned clothing as a means of lending a bit of authenticity to the program.
The program held 100 years ago under auspices of the Tawas City Brass Band, printed on the page, had the following order of exercises; flag raising and salute at 12 o’clock noon, balcony concert until 1 p.m., grand entry and parade of Texas Bulldozers, rope walking by Prof. U. Lenoim, 1:30-2 p.m.
The bicentennial committee was unable to include the “Texas Bulldozers” in 1976 – the terminology is unrecognizable. As for rope walking, a contemporary newspaper account had this to say about Prof. U. Lenoim:
“The first attempt at rope walking proved a rather laughable matter. The walker only succeeded in making a few steps when he stumbled and fell among the crowd, throwing his pole in disgust on the head of one of the spectators.”
Even if the rope walker could be found, the committee decided not to include this segment of program because of the danger to spectators and the liability involved.
Due to the time element and with a long parade in the afternoon, the 1976 program has been altered somewhat with speeches starting at 11 a.m. The flag raising and cannon salute will be held at noon, the same as the 1876 format. The parade noted by Smith is a major feature of the 1976 celebration with a 2 p.m. starting time.
Prizes awarded 100 years ago in the costume contest were: “handsomest married lady, beautiful silver caster: prettiest young lady, elegant silver toilet set; favorite gentleman, ebony cane; ugliest looking man, box of sardines.
The “terpsichorean” listed on the 1876 program included dancing in the spacious Bowery during the entire afternoon. Dancing in the city park included in the 1876 program, but is to be held Friday and Saturday nights.
A report in The Iosco County Gazette following the 1876 observance stated that the various dancing dirties on the night of July 3 “so exhausted the energies and fervor of many that they wisely devoted a considerable portion of their time to patriotic sleep.”
However, a lively game of baseball was played at East Tawas between the Red Stockings and the Clumsies, “the former coming out in neat uniforms and winning the game by a score of 31-27.” The two teams were composed of Tawas businessmen.
“At Tawas Lake Farm, quite a company sought out and found recreation, rest or refreshments as their tastes inclined them, while another party drove to Sand Lake and spent a pleasant afternoon picnicking on the pleasant banks and boating on that pretty little body of water.”
The newspaperman reported that an exhibition of fireworks was “indulged in” at East Tawas and a few ambitious rockets went up from Tawas City.
“At sunrise, the Great American Eagle screeched – taken altogether, the Fourth was a pleasant, enjoyable day and was generally observed,” stated the editor.
Customs in celebrating the Fourth of July have changed in the past 100 years and the Tawas Area Bicentennial Committee, in its reenactment of the 1876 observances, hopes that some of the old time patriotic flavor of the “screeching eagle” will be returned to this great national holiday.