1876 : Grand Rapids Celebrates

July 4, 2024 all-day

Grand Memorial Arch at Campau Place, designed by Col. Joseph Penney and erected by Mr. C. H. Gifford, just in time for July 4, 1876 Centennial Celebration

July 4, 1876 was doubly auspicious for the City of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Not only did residents have the nation’s centennial to look forward to but, coincidentally, 1876 also marked the 50th anniversary of the founding of the city. Grand Rapids, like many cities around the country, went out of its way to provide a spectacular celebration to commemorate the historic occasion as well as celebrate its own accomplishments. Monumental arches, a fabulous parade, a circus, and fabulous fireworks marked the occasion.

Businesses in Grand Rapids also did not hesitate to take advantage of the occasion to offer special promotions, sales, and gimmicks. Ruggles Boot and Shoe Store promised to give one lucky customer that bought a pair of shoes a free ticket to the Centennial in Philadelphia. Ayling Bros. and Company gave away all kinds of jewelry presents to everyone who purchased 25 cents worth of fruits, candles, nuts, cigars, fireworks, and ice-cream. Every business it seemed claimed to be the cheapest or sole supplier of Fourth of July goods. The Cooper Brothers on Canal Street claimed to be the only manufacture of Centennial candy. And what would a Fourth of July be without fireworks and other novelties? Tusch and Loetigerty each claimed to have the best assortment of fireworks, flags, and pistols for people to usher in the Fourth. Just days before the festivities began the Putman Brothers ran an ad promising to supply all celebrators with lemons at low rates. Grand Rapids it seemed was full of the Centennial spirit and just waiting to celebrate.

The city received national and international attention as a result of the products it sent to Philadelphia’s World’s Fair, especially the furniture displays. Berkey & Gay, the Phoenix Company, and Nelson & Matter, prominent furniture manufactures, each sent unique displays and samples to the Philadelphia’s World’s Fair. In the years to come the industry would continue to expand giving Grand Rapids the nickname Furniture Capital of the World.

For more information, visit April B. Chernoby, “Grand Rapids Celebrates the Centennial in 1876”, Grand Rapids History, October 2, 2008.

Note : The picture above – Grand Memorial Arch at Campau Place, designed by Col. Joseph Penney and erected by Mr. C. H. Gifford, just in time for July 4, 1876 Centennial Celebration. It was said to be “without doubt one of the finest ever erected on the continent and unrivaled by any other city on this centennial day.” Source : Casey Gamble and John Fierst, “A Tale of Two Michigan Cities on the Fourth”, Clarke Historical Library News and Notes, July 3, 2014

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