The four best fourths might’ve been easier. It might’ve appealed to your poetic sense of harmony and symmetry, too.
We’ve spent time analyzing historical documents and consulting with scholars nested in the highest-reaching ivy ensconcing the highest ivory towers. Now, we bring you this list. A list that definitively ranks the best July 4ths the world has known.
Bullfighting introduced to the United States.
The notorious Dodge City – home to gunslingers, hillbillies, delicious barbeque, and sin – was on a downward slope. It was being gentrified and civilized. Nobody was getting shot in the street, and things were boring. In the Summer of ’84, the people were struggling with their own identity. More liberal-minded folks were happy to see the pistol-packing cow town dry up like a cow patty. But, the more raucous (read as: fun) members of the community held a high hat over their hearts as they watched their beloved bordello of a town in its death throes. The tug-o-war for the town’s moral future was being lost by the sinners and won by the saints. But there was one final concession made by the squares that was on July 4th.
After an austere (read as: boring) Memorial Day celebration, the rabble-rousers decided they would have one last hoedown before they graduated into propriety. They decided they’d have themselves the first bullfight in the United States, of course. The city fathers imported 4 fighters from Mexico, bought some local land from its own treasurer (bet he got a good deal) and then found some local talent for the bulls. Historynet.com describes the foremost matador: “Captain” Gregorio Gallardo, a veterano billed as a fourth-generation matador descended from one of Spain’s finest. Armed with a Toledo sword said to be 150 years old,” The fights were brutal and bloody for the most part and effectively raised the ire of the squares. Kansas Governor Glick had this to say:
“Humanity and public decorum have been trampled under foot and the blood-red flag of barbarism elevated above them,” then worried that on our nation’s founding holiday, “Dodge City alone unblushingly announces that the tastes and habits of the heathen and the savage are to be inaugurated upon its soil.”
Mission accomplished. I expect a similar celebration tonight. And, thanks to Glick's wordsmithing, I now expect it "unblushingly."
Hawaii Becomes a Republic
The Hawaiian Islands were discovered by the West when James Cook happened on them in his Pacific travels. He named them, then, the Sandwich isles in deference to his financier, the Earl of Sandwich (yes, he’s the guy that invented the sandwich).
The Sandwich Isles stayed named after delicious, Atkins-verboten snacks until around the late 19th century when the more popular moniker of Hawaii emerged. The islands were inhabited largely by native Hawaiians, and did not become the tourist destination they are today until U.S. agricultural interests (sugar cane) catalyzed the overthrow of Queen Lili'uokalani, which was sad because she was actually a fairly benevolent queen.
After the coup, then-President Gover Cleveland appointed James Henderson Bount as the Commissioner Paramount and Minister to Hawaii, and he helped in the investigation around the overthrow of Lili-uokalani and the establishment of an interim government (until the end of Cleveland’s term when Hawaii would become a state).
Hawaii’s annexation as a republic is worthy of mention as the modern-day Hawaii is the cradle of bikini photo shoots and delicious tropical drinks in the Western World. It is like the fertile crescent of hedonism, and the shoots of sin would never have sprouted had it not been made a Republic on Independence Day 1898.
Marie Curie Gets Nobel Prize
Marie Curie was a Polish scientist who got the Nobel prize in both chemistry and physics. She was also a woman, which is notable because when she got two Nobels (something unrepeated by anybody of any gender at the time) most women were still relegated to unprofessional careers.
Marie Curie’s 4th of July prize, though, is the focus of this blog. It was (basically) for discovering radiation. This discovery laid the scientific foundation for figuring out the structure of the atom, developing radiation therapy for cancer, understanding the theory of conservation of energy (it’s important. See here), and for developing X-ray technology.
All of those things are well and good because they contribute directly or indirectly to keeping you and I healthy. And, for my money, I’m banking in medical technology to save me from my own hedonism in the next 5 to 7 years.
On a bittersweet note – Curie’s discovery also catalyzed the invention of several powerful death rays from the mad minds of people like Dr. Evil and Dr. No.
Jack Johnson’s Fight of the Century
Jack Johnson, a.k.a. Arthur John Johnson, a.k.a. the Galveston Giant was a heavyweight boxer who competed in the early 20th century. He was also a first-rate showman with a boat load of braggadocio - think of him as a cultural precursor to the rhyme-spitting Muhammed Ali. He was fabulously wealthy, had multiple wives, had epicurean tastes in clothing and food, and was a fan of opera.
He was also a figurehead for civil rights in a much more openly intolerant America. In 1910, the racial tension surrounding Johnson came to a head on the 4th of July in what was then called The Fight of the Century.
Jack had been challenged by a big, fat white guy named James Jeffries. Jeffries was a former champion and just hated, hated, hated black people. He challenged Johnson by telling the media he was coming out of retirement to prove once and for all that white people are superior to “negroes.”
Johnson (and the most of the black community) had the last laugh, though. Playing to a sold-out, all-white crowd, Johnson trounced Jeffries knocking him down twice. This was the first time that happened in Jeffries career, and his cowardly managers called the fight off before Johnson could effect a knockout.
Johnson got rich, but the cool part was pretty much every black person who liked to gamble had bet on Johnson and got subsequently rich. That night, on the fourth of July, “race riots” were reported nationwide. But, the riots were more accurately described as block parties funded by gambling dollars won that afternoon.
NUMBER 1 (As if you couldn't guess...)
Signing of THE Declaration of our Independence
The Declaration of Independence was a formal statement to Britain and the American Citizenry that “Hey, we’re on our own, and that’s okay cause we rock.” That’s a paraphrase as political vernacular has shifted slightly since the 18th century.
The Declaration itself was written between the 2nd and the 4th, but the final draft was approved, signed, and sent to the printers on the fourth. And, as those of you in publishing know, when something goes to the printers, it’s official. That’s why our nation’s birthday is on the 4th.
The document basically says it’s our natural right to assume our own government if we want to, then it lists a lot of things that the British government was doing that we didn’t like, then the final part is all about how because they were doing it wrong, we’re just going to take the reins and do it right.
It was kind of like Extreme Makeover when the hosts look at how the subject is living and go “What’s THAT all about?” Same basic principle. I love that show/this country.