Fourth of July in 1914 Atlanta

The police were out in force. The new motorcycle squad rushed forth from headquarters every few minutes to quell outbreaks of drunk and disorderly conduct on the streets of Atlanta. Grady Memorial Hospital was prepared for emergency cases involving injuries from fireworks. The police made 100 arrests, including those from a raid on an illegal saloon filled with casks and bottles of beer and 40 gal-lons of whiskey on Edgewood Avenue. It was July 4, 1914 in Atlanta and, despite the arrests, it was considered to be one of the quietest in years.


The city was still a lively place on the nation’s birthday 100 years ago. Almost all the businesses, banks and government offices shut down, including the General Assembly. Virtually no one seemed to spend the day at home and all classes of citizens flocked to places of amusement. The movie houses were filled — but not more than the overflowing parks.


Picnics, barbeques and staying cool were the primary goals in this pre-air conditioner age. Local water spots such as Silver and Brookhaven Country Club lakes in the north were full of swimmers. Trol-leys and large trucks delivered crowds of partiers to Piedmont Park and, most popular of all, Stone Mountain Park.


There were also more organized activities. Local suffragists led by Mary Latimer McLendon joined la-bor unionists for a rally on the steps of the Capitol building. With speeches and banners, they urged for “votes for women” and passage of a Georgia Child Labor Law by the state legislators. The Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) sponsored a church service at nearby Cathedral of St. Philip. They also gathered at Ponce de Leon Park in the afternoon to watch minor league baseball team the Atlanta Crackers compete against the New Orleans Pelicans. DAR leaders presented a new American flag to the Crackers, but it didn’t help them win the game that day.


Even in the July heat, participatory sports were popular everywhere. There was a ladies golf tourna-ment at the new Druid Hills Country Club and a men’s tourney at East Lake Golf Club. The Atlanta Scot-tish Association held a highland games event at Ormewood Park while trapshooters competed in the nearby town of College Park. Even the prisoners at the United States Penitentiary were allowed to play in baseball games with teams outside the prison walls on July 4.
Music and dancing attracted crowds as the day settled into twilight. The rich headed to their private clubs for dancing and more formal affairs on the rooftop of the downtown Capital City Club or the terraces of the Piedmont Driving Club, East Lake, Druid Hills and Brookhaven Country Club. Large bands were also popular in 1914. The U.S. Army’s Fifth Regiment Band performed at the City Auditorium and invited dancing. The nationally recognized Overland Concert Bank, passing through on its nationwide tour, per-formed free in Grant Park. Early bluegrass and country music artists such as Fiddlin’ John Carson thrilled smaller crowds at other parks around town.


Best of all perhaps, July 4 came on a Saturday in 1914. Few people worked on the Sabbath back then, so many people had a rare two day weekend. They could dance and sing and eat all those picnic leftovers well into the night for a change — they may have even sipped some of that illegal beer and whiskey that didn’t end up in a police storehouse in those days of local prohibition.


–Dick Funderburke

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