Revolutionary War troops
celebrated the big day. On July 4, 1778, George Washington gave his troops a double ration of rum and ordered a cannon salute to mark the occasion, Criblez said.
But the young nation was still figuring out how to commemorate its birthday, and most celebrations were held in New England, where the war sentiment was the strongest, he said.
Still, celebratory practices spread. From the 1770s to the 1860s, most towns began the day with an artillery fire at dawn, if they had cannons on hand, Criblez said.
"If they didn't have cannons in the town, some of the men would get up and shoot their muskets into the air," he said. "That was kind of a 'Welcome to Independence Day'
Then, people would launch small but
, and parade from a public green or park to a courthouse or church, Criblez said. There, a lawyer, preacher or politician would talk for about an hour praising the country and its citizens.
At lunchtime, women would return home to make supper, and "the men would go off to the bar and spend hours drinking in the afternoon," Criblez said. A designated toastmaster would give 13 toasts, with the first always going to the United States, and the second to George Washington. Depending on the political affiliation, the toastmaster might toast different politicians or policies. Finally, the last toast went to the ladies, and impromptu toasts from other men would follow, Criblez said.