Shenandoah County Library Archives

Shenandoah County Library Digital Archives

Independence Day on Court Square


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Independence Day on Court Square


Woodstock (Va)


This photograph, taken in the first part of the 20th century, shows one of these celebrations in Woodstock. The picture shows a fair, complete with street vendors, in progress. It also shows a massive arch covering the Valley Turnpike and bunting draped on the Courthouse, which was the center of the festivities.

Newspaper accounts report early Independence Day celebrations usually lasted all day. They included readings of the Declaration of Independence, parades by militia units, fire engine demonstrations, a carnival, and large community dinner complete with alcohol and toasts to local leaders, the United States, and organizations. The number of people crowded onto Court Square indicates just how popular the day’s activities were.

Today July 4th is celebrated in a much different way. Festivities have moved away from Court Square and for the most part, into private homes. Instead of massive community celebrations most individuals observe Independence Day with smaller more intimate gatherings. The Declaration readings, community dinners, and street fairs have almost all been discontinued.

Only New Market continues to have a large outdoor fair. However a community fireworks show, something fire-wary residents of the early 20th century would never have dreamed of having, has been added in several towns and brings a new dimension to the celebrations.


Mary Ann Williamson Collection


Shenandoah County Library


ca. 1900


“Independence Day on Court Square,” Shenandoah County Library Archives, accessed February 20, 2019,


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