Astorians in America’s centennial year, 1876, strived to make the centennial Fourth of July celebration extra special.

In June, members of the community took time and pride in planning the occasion, placing advertisements in The Daily Astorian to rally support.

“All citizens of Astoria favorable to celebrating the Fourth of July in a creditable manner, are requested to meet at the courthouse, Saturday, June 10, 1876 ... for the purpose of making the necessary arrangements,” stated a notice in the paper, which had begun publication a month earlier.

A committee was formed to plan the festivities, advertisements for fireworks and summer clothes were placed in the local papers and a centennial ball was held.

It was a period when the canneries were beginning to pop up on the waterfront and the population would grow exponentially in coming years, with immigrants from Finland, Sweden and China arriving to work and make a home in America.

“To me the 1870s is the most interesting period of time,” said Liisa Penner, archivist with Clatsop County Historical Society, about Astoria. “The town went from a little village to lots of people with lots going on.”

The public responded to planning a Fourth of July celebration with hearty cheering and donations, according to a notice published after the courthouse meeting. Some residents urged Astorians to stay in the city and take pride in celebrating here instead of traveling to Portland.

Additional notices were put in the paper to update the planning effort.

“All the necessary steps toward a grand Fourth of July celebration at this place have been taken, and all that remains now is for the citizens to put their shoulders to the wheel and have a rousing time.”

Among the holiday activities was a centennial ball held at the O’Brien Hotel (now the location of The Bowpicker at 17th and Duane Street) and a Fourth of July dinner barbecue. “Invite the stranger who may be sojourning in the city to come and sit with us at the centennial dinner table and enjoy the luxury of a barbecue,” stated a notice from Dr. J. O’Brien, who owned the hotel.

Notices were also placed in the paper highlighting the regatta that year, boasting a large fleet of ships sailing by on the Columbia River in procession.

“The regatta at Astoria on the Fourth of July will be one of the grandest things of the kind ever witnessed,” O’Brien had printed. “Two hundred and fifty boats will enter for the prize.”

The prize advertised for the winner was $1,000 based on finest build and sailing qualities with an entrance fee of $2.

“The water was a part of everybody’s life,” said Penner about the significance of the regatta. “In those days if you wanted to go anywhere you had to go by boat.”

A steamer leaving from Ilwaco, Wash., in the early morning of July 4 would pick up an artillery unit from Fort Stevens, “reaching Astoria in time to fire the federal salute at sunrise,” according to a notice in the paper.

Advertisements for planning the celebration were accompanied by businesses advertising their goods. Among them were advertisements for the mercantile store owned by Adam Van Dusen.

“Now is the time to purchase your centennial clothing for Fourth of July,” the advertisement read. “Van Dusen has just received a fine assortment.” Summer clothing, diagonal coats and vests and cashmere suits were listed.

As the date approached, one resident summed it up in the paper. “This is the one-hundredth anniversary and we say let it be a grand one.”


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