Celebrating America

For over 230 years, Americans have been celebrating the birth of America.  Although our celebrations of America generally culminate on the fourth of July, have you ever stopped to think of the ways we might celebrate America every day of the year?  Let me give you a few historical examples of how people in the past did just that…


Sampler. 1821. Gift of Jane Tuttle. 1923.9.0

In 1821, Frederic William Tuttle celebrated the birth of America on his sampler (yes, some boys made samplers too, but that’s a whole other blog post!).  Rather than just putting on the date, he specifically stitched “Wrought In the 45th Year of the Independence of the United States of America.”  Even though America gained independence over 30 years before Tuttle was born, he, like other children, still saw the importance of commemorating the event on his sampler.

In the 1860s, the famous Kellogg lithographers put out a lithograph depicting two young girls decked out to celebrate America with red, white, and blue ribbons, and proudly holding an American flag.


Our Colors. 1860-1867. Kellogg Lithograph. 1995.182.170.

This was not the Kellogg’s first lithograph celebrating America, nor would it be their last.  However, it is one of my personal favorites.

America was also frequently celebrated on quilts.  Some subtly, with piecing patterns named Wagon Wheel, Log Cabin, Texas Star, and Rocky Mountain, or with printed fabrics of Americana designs.  Others are less subtle and incorporate the American flag or other American imagery.


Pieced Quilt. 1876. Gift of Susan Goodrich Motycka in memory of my father John Quincy Goodrich. 2013.74.1.


Pieced Quilt. 1860s. The Newman S. Hungerford Museum Fund. 2004.17.1.

The American flag was not, and is not, the only way to celebrate America.  Our nation’s bird, the Bald Eagle, also shows up as a celebratory reference to America.  The eagle is used on everything from early American tavern signs to broadsides, in order to celebrate America.


Sign for Tarbox’s Inn and Village Hotel. 1807, 1824. Collection of Morgan B. Brainard. Gift of Mrs. Morgan B. Brainard. 1961.63.21.

Here the famous painter William Rice used the eagle to symbolize America on this signed used first by Thomas Tarbox and later by Ephraim Ely Jr.

Even though these early Americans celebrated the birth of our nation in every-day objects, they still celebrated the particular day in July that marks the true beginning of America.  The fourth of July was celebrated with song, food, games, and fireworks just as it is today.

From samplers to fireworks, the American flag to the bald eagle, Americans have found many ways to celebrate our great nation on each and every fourth of July and the 364 days in between.

Ishmael Spicer’s Collection of Choice Songs. 1797. Manuscript 55836.

From samplers to fireworks, the American flag to the bald eagle, Americans have found many ways to celebrate our great nation on each and every fourth of July and the 364 days in between.

Exhibition of Fireworks! 1860. Broadside. Brdsd Medium 1860 F781f

Exhibition of Fireworks! 1860. Broadside. Brdsd Medium 1860 F781f

Happy Independence Day from all of us at the Connecticut Historical Society!!!

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About Karen

Karen DePauw is a Research and Collections Associate at The Connecticut Historical Society. Along with aiding patrons who visit the museum in their research efforts, Karen works behind the scenes with the costume and textile collection. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in History, double minoring in Theatre and Theology, from Quincy University. Karen obtained her Master of Science degree at the University of Rhode Island in Textiles, Fashion Merchandising, and Design, with a specialization in Historic Costumes and Textiles.

6 thoughts on “Celebrating America

  1. Excellent post here. It makes me wonder what historical societies will describe how we celebrate it today (saturday morning singing cartoon specials ala school house rock is an example). I like the Kellogg lithographs

    • It is always interesting to think about the way people in the future will interpret our present. Even as a museum professional it is sometimes difficult to rationalize saving years of holiday cards or event posters knowing full well that in 100 years people will consider them worth saving!

  2. Interesting entries!
    I have a sampler started from my great-grandmother’s wedding linen, stamped by my grandmother, with embroidery started by my mother, finished by me, and given to my brother. All in the family!

    • I love hearing about those types of things that stay in the family! I’m sure it will be a family treasure for a very long time. Thanks for sharing it with us.

  3. my friend has some old pictures and one has these words on it. Trade Sign William Fredrick White Ashburnham, Mass; Ca 1860 The Connecticut Historical Society Morgan B. Brainard Collection. Has anyone heard of this before?

    • The sign still lives happily in our collection. It is a sign painters sign for his shop. If you’d like to learn more about the sign, feel free to contact me and I can share with you what we know about it.

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