Celebrate Freedoms Safely!

May your 4th of July celebrations have been filled with great food, people, and festivities. Independence Day is an annual event that recognizes the landmark act of rebellion which led to the establishment of the United States of America. Festivities usually include parades, fairs, cookouts, and local fireworks displays.

Fireworks displays prove to be the highlight time and again for this National holiday. Each year prior to the 4th, national press and fire safety releases are issued to present helpful tips for staying safe while observing and/or shooting off fireworks. Each year following the 4th come in the reports of people losing fingers, eyes, or their lives due to the hazards that come with igniting explosive mortar and powder at close bodily range. In 2016 an estimated 11,100 people found themselves in the ER to treat injuries related to consumer fireworks.

To reduce the number of injuries which always bottle-rocket in the month of July, the US Consumer Products Safety Commission releases an awareness video along with safety tips. These safety tips are important to keep in mind, and their release arises from the work of firework safety advocates that stems back over 100 years!

Prior to campaigns and regulation, injuries due to fireworks included severe burns, tetanus, and death. This became a source of consternation to the medical community, and a few concerned citizens. The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) began to compile statistics from 1903 to 1916, which led to the foundation of the Safe and Sane Fourth campaign. Advocates for this campaign featured articles in publications across the USA, including the Farmer’s Wife.

Title page, July 1, 1912.
Cover page, July 1, 1912.

The above image is the cover-page illustration of the July 1st, 1912 issue of Farmer’s Wife. The issue featured only one minor article pertaining to the Sane Fourth campaign, yet this image is presented throughout the entirety of the issue as a reminder to readers the dangers that firecrackers present to children.

Farmer's Wife, July 1, 1912, p 62.
Farmer’s Wife, July 1, 1912, p 62.

The mid-1910s served as the height of the Sane Fourth movement, in which advocates penned letters to their legislators, and promoted alternative activities such as plays and games that served to provide a safer outlet for celebration and a form of educational outreach. Examples of these advocates’ campaign material is available publicly online via the Hathitrust initiative. These efforts continue today in the form of parades, local displays shot off by professionals with firefighters on standby, and city ordinances regarding fireworks. For access to more information about Safe and Sane Fourth campaign influences, consult early 20th century July issues of the Farmer’s Wife, made publicly available via the Illinois Digital Newspaper Collection.

Consult the links appended to this post for referenced articles and further reading:

2016 CPSC Fireworks Injuries Report

 CPSC Fireworks Safety Tips

Latham, Harold Strong. A Little Rebel: a “sane” Fourth of July Play … New York: Edgar S. Werner & Company, 1912.

Rice, Isaac L., Mrs. A Safe And Patriotic Fourth. New York: Dept. of Child Hygiene of the Russell Sage Foundation, 1910.

Smilor, R. W. (1980), Creating a National Festival: The Campaign for a Safe and Sane Fourth, 1903–1916. Journal of American Culture, 2: 611–622.


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