Life was different one hundred and eleven years ago, but in many ways, it was quite the same. This axiom holds true, throughout the years, for the area’s annual celebration of the 4th of July. Just as citizens today across Niagara County prepare to enjoy a relaxing family picnic or other outing for their 4th of July festivities, so too, were Niagara’s citizens who celebrated the nation’s 120th birthday in 1896.
We get a glimpse of the region’s red-white-and-blue excitement from an article in the Niagara Falls Gazette that appeared on Friday, July 3, 1896, captioned, “Glorious Bird of Freedom Flaps Her Wings.” The article proclaims, “The great Natal Day of America comes tomorrow, and every loyal free-born or naturalized citizen of The United States will make merry. From the Atlantic to the Pacific, and from Maine to Florida, our country’s 60 million people will rejoice that they live in the greatest land on earth, and Niagara’s people will lift up their voice with the general chorus and shoot off fire crackers, roman candles, sky rockets, red fire, etc.”
Throwing caution to the wind, “the small boy will laugh when he burns his fingers”, and girls will hug themselves with the prospect of getting their fill of ice cream. Like today, there was to be a holiday migration from the city to the country as Niagara Falls’ people planned to go to Lockport to visit relatives or just get away from the hubbub of the city.
The NY Central Railroad joined in the patriotic fervor by offering half-price fares to Buffalo, Niagara Falls, Lockport or environs in between. The Lehigh Valley Railroad, not to be outdone, offered excursions to the Falls that lasted a full week after the 4th of July.
The Gazette went on to describe the scene, “With the shooting of fire works, drinking lemonade, eating ice cream and riding on the street cars, the visitors to Niagara Falls should manage to celebrate the great day with much enthusiasm.” And in a moment of anticipatory melancholy, the reader is cautioned that
Douglas Farley, Director
Erie Canal Discover Center
24 Church St.
Lockport NY 14094