Memories of Fourth of July’s Past

Elizabeth Marchant Sanchez, who ran a bed and breakfast in Edgartown, has clear memories of "teens and young men" tying furniture on top of flag poles on the evening before the Fourth of July parade.

As told to Linsey Lee, Oral History Curator at the Martha’s Vineyard Museum. Courtesy of the Martha’s Vineyard Museum


A longtime guide at the MV Museum’s Cooke House, Hilda Norton Gilluly reminisced about shenanigans the night before the July Fourth parade.

Elizabeth Marchant Sanchez

1901-1999; Edgartown proprietor, Marchant House Bed and Breakfast.

“Oh, Fourth of July, this town [Edgartown] always has a parade, always did, always have. But before, what we used to do, oh, the teens and young men used to do terrible things. They’d take the porch furniture off a porch and use ropes and tie it up on top of the flag pole, in a few cases they’d overturn a woodhouse or an outhouse or they’d bring a boat up the middle of Main Street and stop all the traffic and everything. And they’d set fire maybe to some old, unoccupied house. We would bring in all the porch furniture, you didn’t dare leave it out.”

Ted Morgan

Born in Edgartown, 1921; Selectman, town leader.

“I tell you, I’m so busy trying to get the parade organized and marching…all I’m concerned with there is let’s get this thing going and I hope the people enjoy it. And that’s what counts. And then seeing the people along the parade route yelling, cheering, singing. And they all seem to be happy, and there seem to be more and more people every year. And that’s the satisfaction I get out of being involved with the Fourth of July Parade.”

Hilda Norton Gilluly

Born, 1907, Edgartown volunteer for the MV Historical Society (now MV Museum) and guide at Cooke House.

“The Fourth of July…well, no I think Memorial Day was the biggest holiday. That was when they had the parade. And at one time they didn’t do much about the fourth of July — that is, the things that were done were done the night before — they used to raise Cain. They used to ring all the church bells and blow the steamboat whistle and bring rowboats up from the water and put them in the street. All kinds of things — that was just like Halloween, the night before the Fourth.”

We used to have a clambake on the Fourth and then after the clambake we had the fireworks of our own; then you could buy fireworks of course…At times, they had [a parade] but there were times through the years that they didn’t have anything on the Fourth…Oak Bluffs used to have the fireworks in the thirties; everyone would go up there the night before the Fourth to see the fireworks.”

Caroline Osborne Seacord

1908-2002; Edgartown organist, music teacher and historian.

“Oh, we had a float in the summer at Fourth of July… and I was dressed like Betsy Ross. I had the stripes, the red and white, and putting it together on the float, that was the first float we had. I made it up with stuff I had…and an old little cap. It was sort of the style of the time. I was working on a flag, so that winter I made the American flag and I embroidered each star.”