The 4th of July always has been a big deal in Chariton --- as it will be this year, too --- so I thought it might be interesting to go back a 100 years, to July 4, 1914, and see what was going on.
Some of the differences are obvious --- it's doubtful any visitors will arrive by train on Friday and the presence of carriages will depend upon whether or not any of our Amish neighbors decide to drive into town for supplies.
In 1914, the celebration lasted only a day --- this year's opens at 5 p.m. today, continues all day Friday and Saturday and concludes with a church service Sunday morning.
Coal mining, at that time, was a major force in Lucas County's economy, so it's not surprising that John P. White, then president of the United Mine Workers, was featured orator. White served the UMW as president from 1911 until 1917 --- and also gave Lucas County's own John L. Lewis his first job with the union --- as chief statistician.
Then as now, there was uncertainty in the world. Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, had just been assassinated in Sarajevo on June 28. World War I would begin officially a few weeks later, on July 28, when the Austro-Hungarains fired the first shots as they prepared to invade Serbia.
Then as now, much of the entertainment was free --- as was the ice water. But visitors were advised to bring their own drinking cups. The advertisement above is from the Herald-Patriot of June 25, 1914; the report, from The Herald Patriot of July 9.
SAFE AND SANE 4TH OF JULY
Chariton Celebrated National Holiday Without a Single Mishap Among Thousands of Visitors
Chariton was the point toward which all people in this vicinity traveled Saturday and the town was crowded with visitors who came from a radius of 50 miles to spend the day and enjoy the sports and entertainment offered. The day was ideal so far as weather was concerned--- hot enough to please the numerous vendors of soft drinks and quick lunches, hot enough to make base ball playing good and yet not too hot for comfort on the Fourth of July. Early in the morning people began to arrive from the country and every train which reached the city added largely to the number already here. Folks from the country came in autos and carriages and all seemed to have money to spend for what suited their fancy.
The street fakir was much in evidence, though there was little, if any, gambling. The carnival company occupied the streets about the square with their shows, while some free entertainment had been provided by the committee. The Jacksons were very good at their numerous performances, the skating exhibit was pleasing and the band kept the crowd very well entertained.
A baseball game between the Ottumwa Courier team and the home representatives was played in the forenoon. The game was a very good exhibition, resulting in a score of 2 to 7 in favor of Chariton. In the afternoon another contest by the same teams favored the visitors 4 to 3 in a game which was close throughout and right up to the last half of the ninth inning it looked as if Chariton would forge ahead. The side was retired, however, with a man on third base.
While the afternoon ball game was in progress those who remained in town were afforded an opportunity to listen to John P. White. Mr. White is the head of the miners organization in the nation and he had a message which should be helpful to those who heard it, especially those who follow mining as a means of gaining a living. He spoke of the dignity of labor, the advancement of their cause and how organization had bettered the condition not only of the miner, but how it had also helped in all branches of trade and business.
In the evening the streets around the square were solidly packed with humanity and it was a struggle to get from point to point. The fireworks started about 8:30 and while the supply was not extravagant the beauty of the pieces could scarcely be surpassed. All the beautiful colors and figures imaginable were shown when the pieces exploded high in the air and the purchasing committee made an excellent selection of material. The exhibition closed about 9:30, though the shows and street enterainment were kept running until near midnight by merry makers who found pleasure up to the last moment of the Fourth.
Sunday morning the streets were deserted and presented a most forlorn appearance, the show people leaving all their debris for the city to handle. The day was devoid of accidents of even minor nature and taken all in all the people seemed to like the entertainment provided for them. It will probably be several years, however, before Chariton celebrates another day of the kind.