Early 20th-century postcards manufactured for the Fourth of July were very popular. Thousands of colorful cards featured such themes as Uncle Sam, the Goddess of Liberty, eagles, cannons, flags, liberty bell, fireworks, Statue of Liberty, Native Americans, Revolutionary War figures, nautical subjects, and the nation's founders. From the early 1900s the production of postcards neatly coincided with the Safe and Sane movement that was initiated in a number of major cities to get dangerous fireworks away from the public. Many cards demonstrated the seriousness of this issue, but interestingly did so in a humourous vein. One popular card included the conundrum: "How to prevent your boy being killed on the Fourth of July-kill him on the third."
According to Harvey Ginsberg, cards were typically sold in sets of six. Illustrators such as Ellen Clapsaddle and E. Nash were household names to those who collected these cards. Ellen H. Clapsaddle (1865-1934) was active in New York and later in Germany in the early 20th century creating illustrations for thousands of postcards. Her focus was mostly children. She worked for the International Art Company and produced an imaginative series of Fourth of July cards.
"Greeting" cards often included verse that was similar to Fourth of July poetry published in newspapers at that time. The quality was mediocre at best. Examples include: "Day of flags and cannon and jubilee! Guarded well, gloried in, so may it ever be" and "Oh spirit of honor of freedom of peace! Guard well with a vigil that never shall cease." The sense of guarding the nation's freedom and the idea of stewardship was a common notion that all shared and continue to share today.
Sources: “A Bang-Up Fourth: A Portfolio,” American History Illustrated 15/4 (July 1980): 26-28; Harvey Ginsberg, “Siss! Boom! Bah!: Postcards from a Patriotic Past,” Smithsonian 25 (July 1994): 34-37.
Eagle on Cannon. Depicts artillery firings common on the Fourth.
"Our Glorious Fourth." Designed by G. Howard Hilder.
Postcard of boy standing next to box of "Fire Works." Symbolizes the availability of fireworks for small children. Artist is Ellen H. Clapsaddle. Manufacturer is the International Art Publishing Company; printed in Germany. Approx. 1912.
Small boy holding rockets, a dangerous firework. Notice typical toy cannon used by children throughout the 19th century on the Fourth of July.
Approx. 1909. Notice firecrackers in the hands of these youth.
This "4th of July greeting" displays in one unit shield, eagle, and firecrackers. Reprinted in Ginsberg.
This postcard again focuses on the youth and the ready availability of dangerous fireworks.
Uncle Sam and perhaps a depiction of Thomas Jefferson holding a copy of the Declaration of Independence.
Youth holding a flag and firing a toy pistol at a cat.PFB series 8252. Approx. 1908
"Hurrah 1776 July 4th."
"Oh spirit of honor, of freedom, of peace! Guard well with a vigil that never shall cease."
The Revolutionary War patriot rising out of the smoke of rockets set off.
Similar to the previous postcard, this one is Columbia rising from the smoke of fireworks. "Glorious Fourth" was a popular phrase used during the 19th century to symbolize the national holiday.
Look at the collection of fireworks, rifles, and other items. Notice the fireworks attached to the wheel, which when lit was likely intended to revolve.
Girl running from firecracker. Look at the mean face on the end of the cracker!
Postcard design by E. Nash
Designed by Ellen H. Clapsaddle. Notice the 48 stars representing 48 states. Alaska and Hawaii had not yet become states.
Very stylish apparel for a special day.
Parading sailor boys much admired!
Artist is Ellen H. Clapsaddle and one of her best.
"Wishing you a happy Fourth" from Uncle Sam.
A stylized Uncle Sam.
The Fourth of July "Hurrah! Hurrah!" With Uncle Sam and a "Liberty" banner, muskets, drums, and artllery.
"July 4th 1776." Artillery with Statue of Liberty in the background.
"Still Whatever fate betide us, children of the flag are we!" Tuck & Sons. Independence Day Series, no. 109.
Boy holding rocket. Includes cannons and shield. ca. 1911.
Includes many of the patriotic icons, including shield, "1776", eagle, and boy with musket defending his country. ca. 1908, P. Sander.
An excellent example of a Native-American card.
An example of a nautical theme. Reprinted in Ginsberg.
Revolutionary soldier flanked by two eagles. Card manufactured by J. Bouton & Co.
Ca. 1906, Ullman Manuf. Co. Little girl with bonnet holding flag. "Months of Year" series, no. 55.
Three youngsters with three rockets. Ca. 1911. Reprinted in "A Bang-Up Fourth."
"Greeting 4th of July." Flag flying backwards. ca. 1907.
George III. C. Bunnell, 1908 by Fred Lounsbury.
George Washington with an angel.
"This is a day of memory-'Tis Freedom's Jubilee!" Ca. 1910. Independence Day Series, #109. Reprinted in "A Bang-Up Fourth."
Hurrah! Let the Eagle Scream. Hurrah!
Designed by E. Nash.
Designed by E. Nash.
Designed by E. Nash
Ca. 1909. Notice the now vintage automobile in front of the nation's Capitol!
Chapman card, ca. 1913. The tune "Yankee Doodle" was played and sung throughout the 19th century on the Fourth of July.
Ellen Clapsaddle, ca. 1911. Printed by International Art.
Fourth of July Series, no. 1. Set of six. Card 6 is reprinted in Ginsberg.
George Washington explaining the chopping down of the cherry tree. Ca. 1908.
Ca. 1908. Published by Osborne, Ltd., 22 E. 21st New York City.
Ellen Clapsaddle. International Art, 2443.
Ca. 1912. Reprinted in "A Bang-Up Fourth."
Notice the wide variety of fireworks.
P. Sander. Ca. 1908.
Nice liberty bell card from 1909. C. Chapman.
An example of a Yankee Doodle card. Ellen Clapsaddle.
Series 716, 1910, J. J. Marks, New York.
Series 716, 1910, J. J. Marks.
Two kids holdings fireworks.
"Tuck's post card," series 109.
Liberty For Ever.
German, Saxony, no. 746
Nash Fourth of July series, no. 4
Nation's Capitol with fireworks
Lady Liberty on board
Lewistown, Montana, ca. 1910. Card published by Frank Pick, Lewistown by Charles E. Morris, Chinock
Cokato, Minnesota, 1908
"Street Scene, Fourth of July, Pendleton, Oregon," 1909
Ludington Street, Escanada, Michigan, "Fourth of July Celebration", 1907
"July 4th, 1907. Silver Bow Co., Mont."
This page last updated January 2010.
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