Museum Musings

A Fourth of July to Remember


In 1924 Ford Motor Company manufactured its 10 millionth automobile, J. Edgar Hoover became leader of the FBI, the Little Orphan Annie comic strip was first published and Robert Frost received the Pulitzer Prize for poetry. In Concord, Minnesota, on the Fourth of July 1924, an almost unimaginable extravaganza took place.

Oh, how I wish we had pictures that documented this glorious event, but we do have the West Concord Enterprise account of that amazing day. Close your eyes and imagine 700 cars lining the grounds around the grove in Concord. Then think of a crowd estimated to have been 5000 people enjoying the day long celebration. It’s difficult to imagine when we think of the lovely, little sleepy hamlet of today.

The weather was perfect on the Fourth of 1924 and the newspaper noted that anyone who tired of the sun could rest in the shade in the grove park. The celebration began at 10:45 with a concert by the West Concord City Band, who in addition, played all day long. Our very own Doc Evans, then a saxophone player, was part of that band. Community singing was directed by Rev. W.E. Bridge. The Enterprise reported that the “immense audience swung into line and sang with a vim the popular songs”. A patriotic address, “The Day We Celebrate”, was given by Rev. Morse and deemed “most appropriate”.

Everyone brought their picnic dinner in baskets, enjoying the socializing with family, friends, and neighbors. At 1:30 the games started. There were races and contests of all kinds, including a greased pig contest. This event involved greasing a pig with lard, mineral oil or vegetable oil, and teams chasing the pig around a fenced-off mud pit to try to catch the pig and put it in a barrel—all in a timed race. It must have been a boisterous event. (Greased pig contests are no more in today’s world. They were banned by the Minnesota Legislature in 1971 in a “cruelty to animals” statute.)

A lively baseball game was played between Concord and Wasioja. The newspaper account said it was a “scream” with a final score of 19 to 15 in a ten inning game with Wasioja the winner.

The Enterprise proclaimed that “Never in the history of this locality was there a greater crowd or a better celebration of the Fourth of July than that of Friday at Concord. It was an old-fashioned Fourth in every sense of the word. Not a thing occurred to mar the pleasure of the day. The Concord committee who engineered the celebration are deserving of much credit for the superb manner in which the entire program was carried out. It was a tired but happy crowd that left the grounds as the sun sank to the west, and all were loud in their praise for the day.”

I’ve been left wondering why there was such “hoopla” in Concord on that particular

Fourth of July. The year before, 1923, the Enterprise does not even mention a celebration in Concord. In 1925 the newspaper stated just this, “Come and celebrate the 4th at Concord. There is a fine program being arranged and also a big bowery in the park.” Boweries were often constructed in the early 20th century for celebrations.

They were temporary structures that were roofed with green boughs and used for dances and picnic shelters.

By 1926 there was no mention at all of a Fourth of July celebration in Concord.

Both the Owatonna and Dodge Center celebrations were widely advertised in the Enterprise that year. Owatonna’s Fourth had many attractions: horse racing, athletic contests, vaudeville acts, a parade, and fireworks. It would be hard to compete with that.

If anyone has boxes in the attic that might have photos of that remarkable 1924 Fourth of July in Concord (or any Concord Fourth) I would happily sift through the contents. The Museum is also looking for pictures of the West Concord City Band which was so important before the public school had a real band. The West Concord

Enterprise frequently mentions the city band, but we’ve never seen a photo of it and would so much like to have one.

As the writer Erma Bombeck said:

"You have to love a nation that celebrates its independence every July 4th, not with a parade of guns, tanks, and soldiers who file by the White House in a show of strength and muscle, but with family picnics where kids throw Frisbees, the potato salad gets iffy, and the flies die from happiness.”

May your Fourth of July be as wonderful as the 1924 Concord Fourth!