Wednesday, July 4, 2012

4th of July in words, pictures, and music

Jewish immigrants being greeted by Lady Liberty
This online exhibition from the Special Collections Library at "Mr Jefferson's University" shows the early history of printing the Declaration of Independence, including the page below of notables who subscribed for a facsimile book in 1815-1818. As an alumna, and having just survived a populist revolt in the matter of University President Teresa Sullivan, I think TJ would be proud of us.
Did you know that both Jefferson and John Adams died on the 4th of July? Adams and Jefferson were the only two signers of the Declaration of Independence to become President. On the 50th anniversary of its adoption, Jefferson asked “Is it the fourth yet?” before passing away. Later that day, Adams died, saying, “Thomas Jefferson survives” (not having received a news feed). Five years later, on July 4, 1831, James Monroe, the last presidential Founding Father, died as well.
Charles Ives (1874-1954) was a true American original. Here are his Variations on "America," played by "The President's Own" United States Marine Band. Ives interspersed much of his music with patriotic themes.
"This remarkable set, composed when he was about 18, Ives later described as 'but a boy's work, partly serious and partly in fun.' These variations serve, however, as perhaps the most comprehensive illustration of Ives's youthful sweep of style. After a snappy figural variation, we hear a sinuous barbershop setting, a jaunty European cavalry march, a 'midway' polonaise, and a scherzo."
—Jonathan Elkus  
What will you be doing this July 4? (Be careful out there: it's the deadliest day of the year for traffic fatalities.) I'll be strolling up to a neighborhood hillside to enjoy a panoramic view of fireworks from various locales. Some bubbly may be involved!
Further reading: John Adams: A Life by John Ferling is a portrait of America's favorite gadfly.


  1. Your plans sound wonderful. One might think that living in the same town as the Macy's display would be an advantage, but after crawling up asphalt ramps designed for cars to ride, I found I had a panoramic view of elbows and backs. After the end of the show (which I knew more from the smell than anything else), my mother and I were nearly crushed to death in the subway. So now we watch on the TV like the rest of the world, with a diet Coke and a toast to old TJ, whose work we celebrate.

    1. Wish your mom & you could have been w/ us--it was so homegrown. One young girl had a baton sparkler that looked like something out of the circus. Mellow displays in the distance, 180 degree views, no noise or traffic, blessedly cool after 100 degree heat, lots of conviviality--stayed on the breezy hill until 1 a.m. as reluctant to go back to the house where we've been trapped for eons by the weather!

    2. Too much time in the AC makes me feel like a dried beef jerky..but going out in the evening on asphalt reminds me that the city traps heat like a charcoal briquet!
      Sometimes bigger is not better, and that is certainly true of the Macy's fireworks display. Next year, I shall seek out a breezy hill also. Thanks for sharing your holiday with us.

  2. I've been trying to figure out how to share the image of Howard Pyle's painting of Thomas Jefferson writing the Declaration of Independence. The painting struck me because of the loneliness--the dim candlelight by which he wrote, and the quiet isolation of his room. It is strange to think that a government would come of this--one man's quiet thought. This is what a revolution looks like.
    Perhaps you know the painting. I read that it resides in the Delaware Art Museum in Wilmington.

    1. Thanks for this ... I'll put the image on the blog today.