Celebrating July 4th in 1861

This year marks the 150th anniversary of Colorado Territory, officially formed on February 28, 1861. What was July 4th like at that time?
          Historic newspapers offer a peak back in time. Abraham Lincoln was the new President of the United States, eleven states had seceded from the Union to become the Confederate States of America, and by July 4th the Union and the Confederacy were at war.
          The front page of the Rocky Mountain News Weekly on July 3, 1861 made no mention of celebration. Four of the eight columns contained news of the war. The rest of the front page focused on a recently completed census of the territory, the upcoming convention in Golden City to nominate a delegate to Congress, and reports from the gold mining areas.
          Page two contained the full text of “An Act to Provide a Temporary Government for the Territory of Colorado” as approved by the U.S. Senate. Section 16 stated, “The Consitution and all laws of the United States which are not locally inapplicable shall have the same force and effect within the Territory of Colorado as elsewhere in the United States.”
          The only July 4th entertainments were found on page three. In Central City there would be a grand Citizens’ and Fancy Dress Ball at the new National Theater in the evening. Grand Balls and suppers were also being held at the Nevada House Hotel and at Bergen’s Ranch. No other forms of celebration were mentioned.
          News notes of the day included: “The C.O.C. & P.P. Express [stagecoach] arrived from the States last evening, in five days and six hours from St. Joseph [Missouri].”
          Many short items from other newspapers appeared. Even this entertaining note reminds us that the war was never far from people’s thoughts. “The Cincinnati Inquirer says one of the fairest and most respected of Kentucky’s daughters has at various times conveyed out of that city two hundred revolvers under her hoops.”
          The lady pictured above would certainly be able to hide a few guns under her hoop skirt, which was the popular style of the day!

Photo courtesy Victorian Images

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