Listen to Lewis Turco narrate The First Fourth of July
The first Fourth of July celebration in America took place in Massachusetts Bay Colony more than a century before there was a United States. On the 27th of June 1636 the Selectmen of Salem ordered that on July 4th all canoes in Salem were to be brought to the waterfront for a safety inspection. The day of the inspection brought the population together for a great social gathering. While the inspectors examined each boat and marked those that passed muster with a special seal, the young men of the community raced through the sunny day and the chill Atlantic waters while the folk stood on the beach and docks watching and applauding. The women were dressed in their finest clothes — bright colors were everywhere — and the younger ladies encouraged their swains circumspectly but unmistakably as they vied with one another.
Other boats of all descriptions joined the show, parading past the waterfront under full sail. When a canoe capsized, its occupants were immediately pulled from the swell by the closest boat and the canoe righted. The young men, dripping wet, would re-embark and set out for another tilt. The salt air whetted the appetites both of onlookers and participants; picnic lunches were spread along the beaches; neighbors dropped by to chat and share food. It was a grand day. Dr. George Emery, the new physician in town, found himself called upon to examine wrenched knees and cut fingers, but nothing serious. He enjoyed the outing as much as anyone else, for he soon understood that he was asked to look at a child not so much because anything was wrong, but because his new neighbors wanted the opportunity to look him over.
People talked for the rest of the summer about that Fourth of July celebration, and most remarked they hoped it would become an annual feature.
From Satan’s Scourge: A Narrative of the Age of Witchcraft in England and New England 1580-1694, www.StarCloudPress.com, 2009, ISBN 978-1-932827, jacketed cloth; ISBN 978-1-932842-26-5; trade paperback, 808 pages. Also available in a Kindle editon. ORDER FROM BARNES & NOBLE / ORDER FROM AMAZON