A glimpse at how America's 19th-century presidents celebrated the 4th of July, while they were in office.
1801- Jefferson hosts the first public Fourth of July Executive Mansion reception.
1802- The President is in Washington receiving guests.
1803- The President holds a reception at the Executive Mansion between the hours of 12 and 2 p.m. for the various heads of departments, foreign ministers, military officers, and others. He also reviews a military parade.
1804- The President hosts a reception with refreshments at the Executive Mansion and reviews a military parade.
1805- The President holds a reception at the Executive Mansion to the sounds of "a powerful band of music, playing patriotic airs at short intervals."
1806- Jefferson hosts a reception at the Executive Mansion.
1807- The President "standing in the north portico" of the Executive Mansion reviews a military parade and thereafter receives the officers, and opens the Mansion for guests.
1808- The President hosts a reception at the Executive Mansion and reviews a military parade.
1809- Madison is in the Executive Mansion entertaining guests, including various "Heads of Departments."
1810- The President attends the ceremony in the Baptist Meeting House in Washington and hears an oration given by Robert Polk there. Following, the President entertains the assemblage at the Executive Mansion.
1811- Madison attends a church on F street, reviews a military parade, and entertains guests in the Executive Mansion.
1812- The President attends a ceremony held in the Capitol and then returns to the Executive Mansion to review a military parade and to entertain guests.
1813- Madison is ill and the "President's Mansion" is closed to the public for entertainments (the Fourth fall on the sabbath and the official holiday is celebrated on Monday, July 5).
1814- The President is in the Executive Mansion and receives guests, including "the Mayor, aldermen and Common Council of the city."
1815- Madison attends a ceremony held at the Capitol and later entertains the assemblage at the Octagon House.
1816- The White House is being rebuilt.
1817- The White House is not yet ready for receptions, so Monroe, on tour in New England, is in Boston with various government officials and naval commodores and participates in the ceremony there by giving a speech. He visits the ship-of-the-line Independence 74, Fort Warren, and stops off at the Exchange Coffee House. From there he visits the Governor of Massachusetts in Medford.
1818- Monroe is in Washington and issues a proclamation that the trade in "Plaster of Paris" is no longer to be exported to the "Province of New-Brunswick."
1819- The President is in Lexington, Kentucky, in the company of General Andrew Jackson, and visiting the Lexington Athenaeum and attending a ceremony at Dunlap's Hotel there.
1821- The President is ill in the Executive Mansion which is closed to the public.
1822- The President is at his farm in Virginia.
1823- The President attends a ceremony held at the Capitol where he hears the Declaration of Independence read by Richard Bland Lee. Back at the Executive Mansion, because members of his family are ill, he does not receive visitors.
1824- The President rides in a carriage in a procession to the Capitol, attends a ceremony there, and later holds a reception at the Executive Mansion.
1825- Adams is at the White House where he hears the Marine Band perform; at 10 a.m. he and various Secretaries review several volunteer companies. He then goes to the Capitol to hear the Declaration read. Following that, he returns to the White House to receive numerous guests.
1826- The President, accompanied by the Vice President and others, joins a procession that marches to the Capitol and later returns to the Executive Mansion to receive guests.
1827- The President attends services held in Washington at "the Church of Dr. Laurie," and later holds a public reception at the Executive Mansion.
1828-John Quincy Adams attends ground-breaking ceremony for the excavation of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal at Little Falls located just above Georgetown, and gives an address, with music supplied by the U.S. Marine Band.
1829- The President hold a public reception at the White House at 1 p.m. and at 3 p.m. is supposed to participate in a ceremony for the laying of a cornerstone of one of the "Eastern locks of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, near the mouth of Rock Creek," but a driving rain forces the cancellation of the ceremony
1830- The President is on his way to his residence in Tennessee, with arrival expected on July 6.
1831- Jackson is at Fortress Monroe in Norfolk and turns down an invitation to a public dinner there. Later, he returns to the Executive Mansion in the steamboat
1832- The President is at the White House examining a bill to extend and modify the Charter of the Bank of the United States. He vetoes the bill.
1833- Jackson returns to the White House on July 4 from his tour of New England and is ill on this day.
1834- The President is in Washington and plans to leave for the Hermitage in a few days.
1835- The President is in Washington and leaves the Executive Mansion on July 6 in the steamboat Columbia for Fort Calhoun in Virginia.
1837- The President reviews a military parade in Washington.
1839- Van Buren is in New York attending a festival and sabbath school celebration with thousands of children participating.
1841- Tyler is in the Executive Mansion receiving guests.
1842- The President is in the White House receiving "an unusually large number of citizens. President Tyler, dressed in a full suit of black silk, from the manufactory of Mr. Rapp, of Beaver County, Pennsylvania, received them with his accustomed frank courtesy, and all seemed in the highest spirits." In the morning, the President received the Sunday Schools, listened to two addresses made to him by children, and the "temperance people made a desent upon the White House, too, and the President made a capital speech to them."
1844- The President is in the White House.
1845- Polk and the First Lady entertain guests at the White House, including Rev. John C. Smith and the Sunday School of the Fourth Presbyterian Church.
1846- Polk is in the White House and briefly addresses about 200 young students.
1847- From Polk's Diary: "Spent the day in Portland [Maine] and attended a Unitarian church in the morning, in company with the Hon. John Anderson; and a congregational church in the afternoon, in company with the Mayor."
1848- The President receives guests in the Executive Mansion, attends the laying of the cornerstone of the Washington Monument and also reviews a military parade.
1849- Taylor receives guests in the White House, including the E Street Baptist School children, and Master R.W. Wilcox.
1850- Taylor attends a ceremony at the Washington Monument, eats a bowl of cherries and milk, gets sick, and dies a few days later.
1850- Vice-President Fillmore attends a ceremony held at the Washington Monument and takes over as President on July 9 upon the death of Zachary Taylor.
1851- The President has a busy day attenting a ceremony at the Washington Monument in the company of various military officials and other dignitaries, then joins in a procession from City Hall to the Capitol where he ceremonially participates in the laying of the "cornerstone of the new Capitol edifice."
1853- Pierce is in the White House, but walks over to the Post Office to see about having an employee there reinstated after his firing. He writes a letter of acceptance that he will attend the opening of the new Crystal Palace in New York on July 15.
1854- The "Chief Magistrate" is in the Executive Mansion and receives guests, including members of the Western Presbyterian Sabbath School. Pierce later views the fireworks set off on Monument Square.
1855- The President and First Lady are in Cape May, N.J. vacationing and they return to the White House on 7 July.
1858- Buchanan is in the White House entertaining guests.
1859- The President is in the White House.
1861- Lincoln calls an "extraordinary" session of Congress and presents an address regarding the suspension of Federal government functions by seccessionists in the South; the President also reviews 29 New York military regiments in front of the White House and also raises the stars and stripes (the flag presented to the city of Washington by the Union Committee of New York) on a 100-foot high flagstaff located at the south front of the Treasury Department.
1862- Lincoln is in the White House and receives the "Soldiers of the War of 1812"; "Mr. Lincoln replied appropriately, thanking them for the call."
1863- The President issues an address to the people honoring the Army of the Potomac and "for the many gallant fallen." There was a ceremony on the grounds of the Executive Mansion. Upon hearing of the news of the surrender of Vicksburg, the President gives a "Fourth of July" speech on July 7 from the upper window of the White House to an "immense" crowd.
1864- The President is at the White House reviewing the Reconstruction Bill and meeting with various officials.
1865- Due to illness Johnson cancels a trip to Gettysburg where he is to honor the return of peace by consecrating a national monument. He remains in the Executive Mansion.
1866- Johnson is in the White House entertaining guests, including members of the Survivors of the Associated Soldiers of the War of 1812.
1868- Johnson issues a Third Amnesty Proclamation to all participants in the
Confederate rebellion. Papers of Andrew Johnson, Paul H. Bergeron, ed.
Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1989, 14:317-18).
1869- July 4th falls on Sunday and the official celebration occurs on the 5th. The President is at the White House having declined to attend the reunion meeting in New York of the Army of the Potomac.
1870- Grant is on the Presidential train in New England on his way to Woodstock, Conn. He stops in several towns along the way where he is received by cheering crowds. In Woodstock, he participates in that town's celebration and hears speeches by several persons, including one given by Henry Ward Beecher.
1871- The President issues a proclamation in Washington regardng the "Treaty of Washington" between the U.S. and Great Britain regarding the settling of certain "cases of difference."
1872- Grant is at Long Branch, N.J., amidst canons firing, bells ringing, and fireworks going off.
1873- The President has his proclamation read in Philadelphia announcing the future Cenntennial which is to be held there. Grant does not attend the Philadelphia ceremony, due to the recent death of his father Jesse R. Grant on 29 June. President Grant is in Covington, Kentucky, at the funeral.
1875- Grant visits Heightstown, N.J., and returns to the "President's Cottage" at Long Branch later that evening.
1876- The President is in the Executive Mansion where Mr. Cadwallader, Acting Secretary of State, introduces a Mr. Schlozer, the German Minister, who delivers an autograph letter of congratulations from the Emperor of Germany to the President.
1878- Hayes is in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., being entertained by friends
1879- Early on the Fourth, Hayes is at Fortress Monroe in Virginia with Secretaries of the Treasury, War, Navy, the Attorney-General, and others, and witnesses test firing of bombs and large guns. Later that afternoon, he spends two or three hours on the U.S. steamboat Tallapoosacruising around in the ocean. The evening is spent viewing fireworks.
1880- Hayes celebrates the fourth on 5 July when he returns to Washington from a trip to New Haven, Conn.
1881- Garfield lays gravely ill in Washington, D.C. as a result of an assassin's bullet there.
1884- Arthur spends the Fourth in his office from about 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. signing bills and receiving calls.
1885- Cleveland is at the White House with no callers admitted. In the early evening, he receives a cable dispatch from Cyrus W. Field in London which announces the celebration of the Fourth there. The President ends the evening with a drive around Washington which lasts about two hours.
1887- Cleveland declines an invitation to attend a meeting of the Tammany Society in New York, but his letter (June 25) declining the offer is read at the July 4th ceremony there.
1888- Cleveland declines an invitation to attend a meeting of the Tammany Society in New York, but his letter (June 29) to them is read at the July 4th ceremony there.
1889- Harrison is in Woodstock, Conn., giving a traditional Fourth of July speech
1891- Harrison is in Cape May, N.J., vacationing
1892- Harrison spends "a very quiet and uneventful day [in Washington]. In the morning he drives to the Monument Grounds with Secretary Halford to witness the celebration there, returning to the Executive Mansion about 11 o'clock. He occupied his time until the luncheon hour arrived by looking over his mail and going through some official papers. In the afternoon he took a drive with Mrs. Harrison out into the country, away from the noise and din of the city."
1897- McKinley spends the day with his mother in Canton, Ohio, and attends services at the First M.E. Church.
1898- McKinley is in the White House receiving hundreds of telegrams congratulating him on the progress of the war with Spain
1899- McKinley is in the White House
1900- McKinley is in Canton, Ohio, reviewing a parade.
1901- The President is in the White House.
For much more about the 4th of July, see
The Fourth of July Encyclopedia by James R. Heintze (2007)
Music of the Fourth of July: A Year-by-year Chronicle of Performances and Works Composed for the Occasion, by James R. Heintze (2009)