skip navigation and jump to page content The Library of CongressThe American Folklife Center 
Community Roots: Selections from the Local Legacies Project
Collage of Local Legacies
 Home >> ARIZONA
Footrace in 1908 during Bisbee's 4th of July celebration
Footrace on Main Street during Bisbee's 1908 Fourth of July celebration - Photo courtesy Bisbee Mining & Historical Museum

Fourth of July Celebration, Bisbee

For more than a century, Bisbee has celebrated the Fourth of July with parades, sporting contests, patriotic events, dances, picnics, fireworks and rodeos. Some celebrations have lasted for days.

Bisbee became a booming mine town for copper, silver and gold during the late 1800s. In those early years, Bisbee was an exceedingly rough place, with the saloons and red light district of Brewery Gulch becoming the "hottest spot between El Paso and San Francisco."

By 1900, about 6,000 people made their homes in tents, shacks, rooming houses and apartment buildings in Bisbee, which attracted immigrants from Mexico and all over Europe-Finland, Austria, Serbia, Montenegro, Italy, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, and miners from Wales and Cornwall. Bisbee became prosperous, where men of various nationalities could rise to the economic top. These immigrants did not necessarily think of themselves as Americans; they believed their lives in America were an interlude before returning home as wealthy men. Over time, the ethnic minorities who stayed gradually assimilated into American culture, and the annual Fourth of July festivities served as a sort of civics class, teaching recent immigrants a little about what it means to be an American.

Before radio and television, speeches were a popular part of public events. People enjoyed listening to good orations, and some outstanding orators good hold the attention of rapt audiences for hours. At the Bisbee Fourth of July celebration, an attractive young woman of prominent background would read the Declaration of Independence, followed by the main speaker. Other entertainment included fireworks, and, since Bisbee was a mining town, drilling and mucking contests were popular. In 1902, more than 10,000 people watched four brawny teams of drillers compete for a first price of $500 (five months' wages for a miner).

Over the years, Bisbee has changed from a mining town to a family town with a tourist-oriented economy. New residents and visitors are attracted to the town's clean air and historic architecture. Its Fourth of July Independence Day festivities have continued the traditional mucking and drilling contests, coaster races, foot races, the evening fireworks, and colorful small town parade.

Documentation includes a 23-page legacy report, interspersed with newspaper coverage since 1902, and historic and contemporary photos

Originally submitted by: Jim Kolbe, Representative (5th District).

link to www.loc.govMore Local Legacies...

The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.

disclaimer for external linksLearn More About It...
 Home >> ARIZONA
  The Library of Congress 
The American Folklife Center
Contact Us
AFC Icon