Centennial 4th of July in the Reading Eagle

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The July 4th, 1876 Reading Eagle ran a few interesting articles on its front page about Independence Day observations and celebrations. The first article was titled, “A Peep at Reading 100 Years Ago” which described the town at the time of our country’s founding. Reading was already nearly three decades old at the onset of the Revolutionary War. Berks County was only slightly younger being founded in 1752. At the time the entire population of Reading was roughly 1000, and Berks was around 7000. It is interesting to imagine what the citizens of this place thought about the turbulent age they experienced.

Click the image to read the articles

The article mentions that a large amount of Philadelphians fled to Reading as a place of relative safety. It also mentions the swaths of Hessian prisoners of war who were sent to camp here at the foot of Mount Penn. Hessians were the term for German soldiers hired by the British government to aid their troops in the Revolutionary War. At that time German was almost universally spoken amongst Berks County inhabitants. George Washington had them sent here strategically, as these soldiers were able to be easily integrated into Berks’ society, with many choosing to stay even after the war ended and they were granted freedom.

In 1876 the city celebrated the occasion with a variety of picnics and festivities. An event at the city park fairgrounds was hosted by the Junior Fire Company and boasted the areas largest firework display at 9p.m. Penn Street businesses draped flags from their windows and citizens congregated in the streets to celebrate. B. Fisher & Son’s hung a life-sized painting of George Washington in Continental uniform with sword in hand over Penn Street between 6th and 7th streets.

4th of July Reading

The Free and Easy Association held an all-day affair at Lauer’s Park featuring the Black Hills Regimental Bank and its own firework show at 9 p.m. There was also to be a parade around the city, ending in the typical Penn Street stretch to city park. It must have been quite a spectacular day in the city of Reading.

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Larry Kohl
Larry Kohl
1 year ago

Great piece on early 1700’s Reading, as well as the 1876 parade down Penn Street. Was not aware Reading had that many citizens around 1770. Thanks for the walk down memory lane. Great work!

Berks Nostalgia