Independence Day Celebrations in the Urban Midwest, 1826-1876
by Adam Criblez
Parading Patriotism breaks new ground in revealing how Fourth of July celebrations in the urban Midwest between 1826 and 1876 helped define patriotic nationalism, bringing celebratory actions to life by demonstrating the importance of Independence Day commemorations in defining changing conceptions of what it meant to be an American. The book links two important historical genres by considering how historical memory and American nationalism coalesced on the Fourth of July as Midwesterners used the holiday as a time both to reflect on the past and forge ahead in constructing a unique national identity. Historian Adam Criblez uses the Midwest as a backdrop, but necessarily considers cultural developments transplanted from outside the region, both from Europe, transmitted by immigrants, and eastern states like New York, Virginia, and Massachusetts, brought by westward migrants. Readers, therefore, can expect a multitude of topics to be covered in this work. Ethnic conflict, racial turmoil, class struggle, and, perhaps most importantly, changing conceptions of American nationalism in the mid-nineteenth century all compose aspects of Parading Patriotism.
Celebrating the Fourth of July was an important political, cultural, and religious ritual on social calendars in the mid-nineteenth century. It marked a rare summer holiday and opportunity for diverse groups of citizens to share in a nationalistic revelry explicitly promoting political independence and republican government. On Independence Day in the five Midwestern urban centers considered in this study—Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, and Indianapolis—this celebratory façade often masked deep-seated tensions over the meanings of the nation’s birth as celebrations were regularly segregated by ethnicity, class, race, political party, religious affiliation, or gender. Drawing on both unpublished sources (including diaries, manuscript collections, and journals) and the copious but under-utilized print resources from the region (newspapers, periodicals, travelogues and pamphlets), this latest addition to the Mellon-sponsored Early American Places series exposes a rich tapestry of mid-century Midwestern social and political life, focusing on the nationalistic rites of Independence Day.
About the Author
Adam Criblez is Assistant Professor of History at Southeast Missouri State University.