Fourth of July celebrations through the years

The Fourth of July celebration wasn’t always celebrated with a Macy’s fireworks show off the Manhattan waterfront.

Indeed, along with the fireworks, Independence Day events throughout the years often came with  light-hearted traditions like beauty contests, parades, dances, and eating contests. The following photos document some of those festivities dating back to the 19th century.

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<p>Family with pistols and flags get ready for their Fourth of July celebration, circa 1880s (Photo: Bettmann Archive/Getty Images) </p>
Fourth of July celebrations through the years

Family with pistols and flags get ready for their Fourth of July celebration, circa 1880s (Photo: Bettmann Archive/Getty Images)

<p>Girl with sparklers, 1930. (Photo: Bettmann Archive/Getty Images) </p>
Fourth of July celebrations through the years

Girl with sparklers, 1930. (Photo: Bettmann Archive/Getty Images)

<p>Family in Chicago celebrate the Fourth of July, circa 1905. (Photo: Kirn Vintage Stock/Corbis via Getty Images) </p>
Fourth of July celebrations through the years

Family in Chicago celebrate the Fourth of July, circa 1905. (Photo: Kirn Vintage Stock/Corbis via Getty Images)

<p>A young couple cuddles on a hot Independence Day at the beach, Santa Monica, Calif., 1950. (Photo: Ralph Crane/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images) </p>
Fourth of July celebrations through the years

A young couple cuddles on a hot Independence Day at the beach, Santa Monica, Calif., 1950. (Photo: Ralph Crane/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)

<p>A Fourth of July party in a middle-class home, with plenty of drinks in evidence, 1894. (Photo: Bettmann Archive/Getty Images) </p>
Fourth of July celebrations through the years

A Fourth of July party in a middle-class home, with plenty of drinks in evidence, 1894. (Photo: Bettmann Archive/Getty Images)

<p>A young couple dances at a Fourth of July celebration in Price, Utah, 1946. (Photo: Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images) </p>
Fourth of July celebrations through the years

A young couple dances at a Fourth of July celebration in Price, Utah, 1946. (Photo: Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images)

<p>Costumed actors promote Fourth of July celebrations as they pose with fireworks, Chicago, circa 1940. (Photo: Transcendental Graphics/Getty Images) </p>
Fourth of July celebrations through the years

Costumed actors promote Fourth of July celebrations as they pose with fireworks, Chicago, circa 1940. (Photo: Transcendental Graphics/Getty Images)

<p>C.B. Leech, right, of Weinert, Texas, milks a wild cow in 37 3/5 seconds while his son, Charles, left, mugs the cow in the wild cow milking contest during the cowboy reunion at Stanford in Texas on July 4, 1945. (Photo: Carl E. Linde/AP) </p>
Fourth of July celebrations through the years

C.B. Leech, right, of Weinert, Texas, milks a wild cow in 37 3/5 seconds while his son, Charles, left, mugs the cow in the wild cow milking contest during the cowboy reunion at Stanford in Texas on July 4, 1945. (Photo: Carl E. Linde/AP)

<p>Three boys in Colonial garb march with instruments at a Fourth of July celebration, 1922. (Photo: Buyenlarge/Getty Images) </p>
Fourth of July celebrations through the years

Three boys in Colonial garb march with instruments at a Fourth of July celebration, 1922. (Photo: Buyenlarge/Getty Images)

<p>Left to right: George Goldstein, Harold Johnson and Harold Valentine prepare to march through their neighborhood to celebrate the Fourth July, circa 1935. (Photo: FPG/Hulton Archive/Getty Images) </p>
Fourth of July celebrations through the years

Left to right: George Goldstein, Harold Johnson and Harold Valentine prepare to march through their neighborhood to celebrate the Fourth July, circa 1935. (Photo: FPG/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

<p>A young girl dressed in a Lady Liberty costume holds an American flag during a Fourth of July celebration in Washington D.C., 1916. (Photo: Harris & Ewing, GHI/Universal History Archive via Getty Images) </p>
Fourth of July celebrations through the years

A young girl dressed in a Lady Liberty costume holds an American flag during a Fourth of July celebration in Washington D.C., 1916. (Photo: Harris & Ewing, GHI/Universal History Archive via Getty Images)

<p>His Mouth Full, his face smeared, one contestant comes up for air while his opponents dig deeper into their pie in the course of the pie-eating contest at Central City’s July Fourth celebration in Colo., 1947. The afternoon’s events, in addition to pie eating, included three-legged races, a greased pig, and other traditional contests. (Photo: Denver Post via Getty Images) </p>
Fourth of July celebrations through the years

His Mouth Full, his face smeared, one contestant comes up for air while his opponents dig deeper into their pie in the course of the pie-eating contest at Central City’s July Fourth celebration in Colo., 1947. The afternoon’s events, in addition to pie eating, included three-legged races, a greased pig, and other traditional contests. (Photo: Denver Post via Getty Images)

<p>Start of a July 4 soapbox derby, Salisbury, Md., July 1940. (Photo: Jack Delano for Farm Security Administration/Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images) </p>
Fourth of July celebrations through the years

Start of a July 4 soapbox derby, Salisbury, Md., July 1940. (Photo: Jack Delano for Farm Security Administration/Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)

<p>From a Fourth of July party at the Ellipse, Washington D.C.,1919. (Photo: Harris & Ewing/GHI/Universal History Archive via Getty Images) </p>
Fourth of July celebrations through the years

From a Fourth of July party at the Ellipse, Washington D.C.,1919. (Photo: Harris & Ewing/GHI/Universal History Archive via Getty Images)

<p>A farm family has a fish fry along Cane River near Natchitoches, La., 1940. (Photo: Marion Post Wolcott for Farm Security Administration/Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images) </p>
Fourth of July celebrations through the years

A farm family has a fish fry along Cane River near Natchitoches, La., 1940. (Photo: Marion Post Wolcott for Farm Security Administration/Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)

<p>This feline Uncle Sam is all dressed up for the Fourth of July in New York City, 1956. (Photo: Bettmann Archive/Getty Images) </p>
Fourth of July celebrations through the years

This feline Uncle Sam is all dressed up for the Fourth of July in New York City, 1956. (Photo: Bettmann Archive/Getty Images)

<p>A Fourth of July beauty contest, Salisbury, Md., 1940. (Photo: Jack Delano for Farm Security Administration/ Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images) </p>
Fourth of July celebrations through the years

A Fourth of July beauty contest, Salisbury, Md., 1940. (Photo: Jack Delano for Farm Security Administration/ Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)

<p>With the temperatures soaring into the 90s, thousands of people who are attending the annual Newport Jazz Festival have headed for the city’s beaches. Apparently the music also goes to the beach with the jazz fans. Bob Cross, 21, Pawtucket, R.I., strums his guitar along with other amateur musicians in Newport, R.I., on July 4, 1966. (Photo: Bob Daugherty/AP) </p>
Fourth of July celebrations through the years

With the temperatures soaring into the 90s, thousands of people who are attending the annual Newport Jazz Festival have headed for the city’s beaches. Apparently the music also goes to the beach with the jazz fans. Bob Cross, 21, Pawtucket, R.I., strums his guitar along with other amateur musicians in Newport, R.I., on July 4, 1966. (Photo: Bob Daugherty/AP)

<p>Frances Fowler leads the Bowie VFD Marching Thoroughbreds in the Bowie Fourth of July parade in Bowie, Md., 1976. (Photo: James M. Thresher/Washington Post via Getty Images) </p>
Fourth of July celebrations through the years

Frances Fowler leads the Bowie VFD Marching Thoroughbreds in the Bowie Fourth of July parade in Bowie, Md., 1976. (Photo: James M. Thresher/Washington Post via Getty Images)

<p>A young boy celebrates the American Declaration of Independence at the baby parade in Lititz Park, Pa., 1956. (Photo: Evans/Three Lions/Getty Images) </p>
Fourth of July celebrations through the years

A young boy celebrates the American Declaration of Independence at the baby parade in Lititz Park, Pa., 1956. (Photo: Evans/Three Lions/Getty Images)

<p>The Queen of Candles and her maids light sparklers before leading the coronation procession, circa 1955. (Photo: Evans/Three Lions/Getty Images) </p>
Fourth of July celebrations through the years

The Queen of Candles and her maids light sparklers before leading the coronation procession, circa 1955. (Photo: Evans/Three Lions/Getty Images)

<p>Baby Garey Low prepares to celebrate the Fourth of July in Chinatown, San Francisco. (Photo: Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images) </p>
Fourth of July celebrations through the years

Baby Garey Low prepares to celebrate the Fourth of July in Chinatown, San Francisco. (Photo: Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images)

<p>Independence Day parade participants march up Fifth Avenue, New York City, 1942. (Photo: Andreas Feininger/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images) </p>
Fourth of July celebrations through the years

Independence Day parade participants march up Fifth Avenue, New York City, 1942. (Photo: Andreas Feininger/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)

<p>From an Independence Day baseball game, Vale, Ore., July 4, 1941. (Photo: Corbis via Getty Images) </p>
Fourth of July celebrations through the years

From an Independence Day baseball game, Vale, Ore., July 4, 1941. (Photo: Corbis via Getty Images)

<p>A child attends an Independence Day celebration in Vale, Ore., 1941. (Photo; Corbis via Getty Images) </p>
Fourth of July celebrations through the years

A child attends an Independence Day celebration in Vale, Ore., 1941. (Photo; Corbis via Getty Images)

<p>Napping after an Independence Day parade, Vale, Ore., 1941. (Photo: Corbis via Getty Images) </p>
Fourth of July celebrations through the years

Napping after an Independence Day parade, Vale, Ore., 1941. (Photo: Corbis via Getty Images)

<p>A bathing beach parade in Washington, D.C., July 4, 1919. (Photo: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images) </p>
Fourth of July celebrations through the years

A bathing beach parade in Washington, D.C., July 4, 1919. (Photo: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)

<p>This view, from the Virginia side of the Potomac River, shows the moon above the Iwo Jima Statue as fireworks burst over Washington, D.C., on July 4, 1966. The Washington Monument, obelisk, and the Lincoln Memorial can be seen in the background. (Photo: Charles Tasnadi/AP) </p>
Fourth of July celebrations through the years

This view, from the Virginia side of the Potomac River, shows the moon above the Iwo Jima Statue as fireworks burst over Washington, D.C., on July 4, 1966. The Washington Monument, obelisk, and the Lincoln Memorial can be seen in the background. (Photo: Charles Tasnadi/AP)

<p>Children wait for an Independence Day parade to begin, Vale, Ore., 1941. (Photo: Corbis via Getty Images) </p>
Fourth of July celebrations through the years

Children wait for an Independence Day parade to begin, Vale, Ore., 1941. (Photo: Corbis via Getty Images)

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