18 Vintage Photos of People Celebrating Independence Day

Library of Congress
Library of Congress

You'll spend today grilling, drinking, and watching fireworks. Here's how people celebrated in years gone by.

1. 1918: American soldiers driving through streets during 4th of July celebrations.


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2. 1932: Elizabeth Young (right), a Paramount player of the 30s, is celebrating Independence Day by waving sparklers and linking arms with Lyda Roberti, the German-Polish leading lady who was a former child cafe singer.


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3. 1940: A group of children playing with sparklers after Fourth of July celebrations.


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4. 1955: A young boy on a miniature float commemorates the American Declaration of Independence, at the baby parade in Lititz Springs Park, Pennsylvania. The children are judged on their appeal and costume as part of the Independence Day celebrations on the 4th of July.


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5. 1955: A child dressed as George Washington is pulled past on a miniature float, one of the contestants in the Lititz Springs Park, Pennsylvania baby parade.


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6. 1939: A Fourth of July picnic on St. Helena Island, South Carolina.


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7. 1923: Fourth of July parade at Takoma Park. 


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8. 1893: A Fourth of July salute.


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9. 1908: Baseball at Sauk Centre, Minnesota, within a race track.


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10. 1906: A little boy holding three large firecrackers and an American flag.


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11. 1906: Parade float.


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12. 1919: Two women (possibly in the Washington, DC area) dressed as Liberty and Columbia as part of the year's Fourth of July celebration.


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13. 1919: Scenes of celebration at Walter Reed.


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14. 1941: Bicycle riders in parade on the Fourth of July at Vale, Oregon.


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15. Between 1900 and 1916: Tug of war contest on street in Skagway, Alaska, on the 4th of July.


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16. 1941: Fourth of July roadside stand near Milwaukee, Wisconsin.


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17. 1895: Boys stand on a model ship on horse-drawn float in Victor, Colorado's Fourth of July parade.


Denver Public Library

18. 1916: Child dressed as Liberty.


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Can You Spot the Christmas Stocking in This Hidden Image Puzzle?

It's time for another hidden image puzzle! This time, Lenstore.co.uk's Can You Spot It? puzzle features a smattering of Yule-themed objects like Santa hats, gingerbread men, snowmen, presents, and Christmas trees. Can you find the lone Christmas stocking hidden among them?

According to Lenstore.co.uk, it takes most people around 45 seconds to find objects in most of their hidden-image puzzles, and women tend to be faster at finding them than men. (Try out some of the previous puzzles here, here, and here.)

Before you peek at the answer, read up on the history of the Christmas stocking here. Like many Christmas traditions, its origins are pretty unclear, but one thing is for sure: We should all be grateful that we've long since moved on from stringing up the regular socks we wear every day.

Scroll down to see the answer, then try your hand at one of our close-up image quizzes.

What is Wassailing, Anyway?

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iStock

It’s easy to think that wassailing is some cozy wintertime tradition that’s fun for the whole family. After all, there’s a jaunty, wholesome Christmas carol about it! But the truth is, if you ever see a minor out wassailing, you may want to call his or her parents.

The word wassail has many meanings. For centuries, it was a way to toast someone’s good health. Before the Battle of Hastings in 1066, English soldiers reportedly sang:

Rejoice and wassail!

(Pass the bottle) and drink health.

Drink backwards and drink to me

Drink half and drink empty.

But, in England, wassail also denoted the alcoholic beverage you imbibed during that toast—an elixir of steamy mulled mead or cider. Sometimes, wassail was a whipped dark beer flavored with roasted crab apples.

Wassail was usually slurped from a communal bowl before, during, and after big events and holidays. It was supposedly on the menu during Lammas Day, a pagan autumnal harvest holiday that involves transforming cornhusks into dolls. It was also imbibed on Twelfth Night, a January holiday that involves lighting a fire in an orchard, dancing, and singing incantations to apple trees in hopes of encouraging a bountiful harvest.

By the Middle Ages, the practice of sharing a giant bowl of wassail—that is, the practice of wassailing—evolved from a holiday celebration to a form of boozy begging. “At Christmastide, the poor expected privileges denied them at other times, including the right to enter the homes of the wealthy, who feasted them from the best of their provisions,” Robert Doares, an instructor at Colonial Williamsburg, explained. The poor would either ask to sip from their rich neighbor’s wassailing bowl or would bring their own bowl, asking for it to be filled. According to Doares, “At these gatherings, the bands of roving wassailers often performed songs for the master while drinking his beer, toasting him, his family, his livestock, wishing continued health and wealth.” The original lyrics of Here We Come a-Wassailing are quite upfront about what’s going on:

We are not daily beggars

That beg from door to door

But we are neighbours’ children

Whom you have seen before.

Not all rich folk were happy to see wassailers at their doorstep. One 17th century polymath, John Selden, complained about “Wenches … by their Wassels at New-years-tide ... present you with a Cup, and you must drink of the slabby stuff; but the meaning is, you must give them Moneys.”

Misers like Selden may have had a point: Since alcohol was involved, wassailers often got too rowdy. “Drunken bands of men and boys would take to the streets at night, noise-making, shooting rifles, making ‘rough music,’ and even destroying property as they went among the wealthy urban homes,” wrote Hannah Harvester, formerly the staff folklorist at Traditional Arts in Upstate New York. In fact, boisterous wassailers are one reason why Oliver Cromwell and Long Parliament passed an ordinance in 1647 that essentially banned Christmas.

By the 19th century, wassailing would mellow. Beginning in the 1830s, music publishers started releasing the first commercial Christmas carols, uncorking classics such as God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen and The First Noel. Among them were dozens of wassailing songs, including the circa 1850 Here We Come a-Wassailing and dozens of others that are now, sadly, forgotten. As the custom of caroling became the dominant door-to-door pastime, alcohol-fueled begging dwindled. By the turn of the 20th century, carolers were more likely to sing about libations than actually drink them.

But if you’re interested in engaging in some good, old-fashioned wassailing, the original lyrics to Here We Come a-Wassailing are a helpful guide. For starters, ask for beer.

Our wassail cup is made

Of the rosemary tree,

And so is your beer

Of the best barley.

Don’t be shy! Keep asking for that beer.

Call up the butler of this house,

Put on his golden ring.

Let him bring us up a glass of beer,

And better we shall sing.

Remind your audience that, hey, this is the season of giving. Fork it over.

We have got a little purse

Of stretching leather skin;

We want a little of your money

To line it well within.

Screw it. You’ve sung this far. Go for it all, go for the gold, go for ... their cheese.

Bring us out a table

And spread it with a cloth;

Bring us out a mouldy cheese,

And some of your Christmas loaf.

Thirsty for your own wassail? Stock up on sherry and wine and try this traditional recipe from The Williamsburg Cookbook.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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