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America's Independence Day has long been celebrated with three days of lazy beach drinking and consuming the seared flesh of our subjugated wildlife. And while that's fun and all, the sad truth is that the USA has gotten STUPID SOFT.

You see, back in the day, the Fourth of July was more or less the holiday equivalent of smashing your own face with a beer bottle and uppercutting Benedict Arnold in the taint. And so, in the interest of making America great again, it's time to remind you of the total fucking anarchy your forefathers enjoyed in the name of balls-out patriotism.

6
Massachusetts Used To Burn Itself Into Oblivion

Boston Public Library

Back before America was united, a bunch of superstitious chowdaheads took it upon themselves to hang a fuck-ton of people at the aptly-named Gallows Hill in Salem, Massachusetts. Cut to a century later, and these rabid Bay Staters were using the same spot to burn effigies of religious figures for November's Pope Night celebrations, a practice which was eventually repurposed in the early 1900s to celebrate the Fourth of July by replacing "effigies" with "a shit-ton of hilariously flammable barrels."

LIFE Magazine

Boston Public Library
Gallows Hill: home to the world's most confused ghosts

Yes, that's exactly what it looks like. Stacks of barrels 30 to 40 high, begging to be lit up like a medieval Burning Man centerpiece. And boy were they, no doubt to the drunken wails of many.

LIFE Magazine
"How does this celebrate our independence, exactly?"
"SHUT UP, PINKO!"

Reaching heights of 130 feet, this fiery cask stack wasn't even a Salem exclusive, as most of the surrounding areas also held their own competing "fuck yous" to Smokey Bear.

The Billboard, Boston Public Library
If you have to specify that your concessions are "legitimate," then they almost certainly aren't.

What a kooky time, those 1960s were. Oh right, did I mention that this awesomeness was going on all the way into the '60s? Because it totally was. Heck, the only reason we stopped scorching the earth had nothing to do with the dangers of God-taunting wilderness blazes and everything to do with modern shipping -- as giant flammable barrels sort of fell out of style. For now.

NPR
Something to start fires AND get drunk with? It's win/win!

And somehow, this is but one of two cartoonishly giant fires on this list ...

5
The Old West Partied ... With Dynamite!

Alfred T. Palmer

Dynamite was a totally new invention in the 1800s, and the majestic ranges of the American West took to it like an Ecto-Cooler-drunk toddler in a bubble wrap factory. And no more explodier day was there than July Fourth, when celebrations kicked off with a town-waking blast of dynamite in the morning. No, seriously -- like a rooster's crow, the festivities of yesteryear started like the opening to Die Hard With A Vengeance. And if things didn't go great, they would equally end with an act of celebratory terrorism. For example, that time in 1884 when a Swan City mining company refused to supply fireworks for its employees ... who then retaliated by blowing up the post office instead.

Mining Artifacts
NEVER come between a hard-working man and his pinwheel sparklers.

If blowing up a federal building seems a bit over-celebratory, consider that this was hardly the most apocalyptic explosion to befall a small Colorado town in the name of our Founding Fathers. Jump to the year 1901, on the 14,000-foot summit of Pike's Peak, where the locals spent July 3 building a special track for the sole purposes of delivering barrels of gasoline into bonfire embers. For what purpose, you might ask? Well ...

NY Times

... according to the New York Times, it all went down when dozens of trucks filled with old lumber were brought to the mountain's peak, dumped into a 500-foot long pile, and covered in kerosene. Once the blaze was ignited and burned into embers, additional barrels of gasoline were rolled onto the mess and ultimately burst forth a 500-foot wall of hellfire on a peak already 14,000 feet above sea level -- creating a volcanic effect that was reportedly seen as far as 200 miles away, in areas like New Mexico and Cheyenne. Because it's not the Fourth unless strangers think they're in catastrophic danger.

And speaking of exactly that ...

Continue Reading Below

4
Military-Led Surprise Civil War Reenactments Happened (DURING The Civil War)

Library of Congress

Imagine it's 2005 and you're sleeping off that "pre-Independence-Day fireworks testing / wine-chugging party" your family throws every year. Suddenly you're shaken by the sounds of sickening gunfire as men in uniform shout commands over the sound of wailing drones and tank explosions. You rush out of your house to find the U.S. Military playing a pretend game of war, to the absolute horror of everyone in your terrorism-panicked neighborhood. Dick move, right? Also totally a thing the army used to do ...

Florida State Archives
"Hey, the Constitution only says we can't crash on your couch."

What you're seeing is one such holiday "mock battle" conducted by veterans 30 years after the Civil War. And if that seems a wee bit fresh for reliving the deaths of your fellow soldiers, consider that the earliest fake Civil War battles occurred on July Fourth in 1861 and 1862 -- which, for you non-history-buffs, is smack dab in the middle of what they were recreating.

And somehow, this was the least weird part of celebrating our nation's independence as a Civil War soldier. Other battlefield festivities included binge drinking, funny costumes, and mule races. And in the 1900s, even Native Americans got in on the fun -- recreating the World War I victory against the Germans as early as July 4th, 1922.

Welch Dakota Papers

Welch Dakota Papers
"No no, I'm telling you, Klaus didn't die like that. Way more pants shitting."

Along with scalp-dances and fake prisoners (played by real Germans), participants were treated to gambling and bull taunting, followed by some good ol' American hot dog eating. It's your basic Texas Fourth, with the slight exception that "hot dog" refers to actual cooked dogs. Which, in fairness, is still better than whatever horror goes down at Oscar Mayer.

And hey, speaking of being throbbing dicks to animals ...

3
HORSE DIVING

Press of Atlantic City

Guys, it's horse diving. As in a horse ...

British Pathe
Equus Ferus

... DIVING.

British Pathe
Equus Whathefuckus

Horse diving. I'm not sure how else to describe it. If you're still foggy on the concept, here it is in unimaginable motion:

British Pathe

Major Film Laboratories Inc.

The Steel Pier
Seriously, don't think about this any harder. They clearly didn't.

Horse diving. According to inventor William Carver, the idea of launching a panicked equine into the watery void came whilst riding off a collapsing bridge in 1881. And like all things entertainment back then, recreating tragedy on a grand scale was instantly lucrative. The show was a summer staple at Atlantic City ... up until like the fucking 1970s.

General Merchandise Co
"Stop dumping terrified animals into the water for no reason? That's exactly what the commies want!"

That's right -- we really held on to horse diving. Partially due to how surprisingly few horses were (externally) hurt from this bizarre act, as what few anecdotal stories that exist range from hoofed panic attacks to a single horrific drowning. Meanwhile, their human counterparts had the troublesome task of not slamming their face into the water upon landing. And while that sounds simple enough, consider that the most famous horse-diver, Sonora Carver, went blind after a botched landing detached both of her retinas. And yet, much like this entire asshole sport, our hero continued to risk her life well after the loss of her eyes. Her commitment to stupidity in the face of overwhelming reason was the subject of a 1991 movie called Wild Hearts Can't Be Broken.

Walt Disney
Not sure why blindness would prevent you from riding a horse up a narrow chute,
but honestly, that's so low on our list of questions about this.

Because the bravest thing you can do in America is refuse to give up, even when that means blindly plunging 60 feet into a shallow pool for the delight of day drunks. This Yankee stubbornness wasn't exclusive to the performers either, as one July Fourth reveler named Eunice Winkless was photographed attempting a 40-foot jump on a $100 dare.

Library of Congress
"Please, for the love of God, let me go back to eating grass."

That's right, AMATEUR HORSE DIVING. And if there's anything more American than doing something stupid for money, it's having to file a lawsuit in order to claim the money afterward (which is what happened). God bless this nation of scrappy maniacs who somehow tread the gene pool for so long -- especially considering all the opportunities they had to drown. For example...

Continue Reading Below

2
Alcohol + Weapons = America

Charles Webster Hawthorne

Above all else, July Fourth has always been a day of getting blasted at noon and becoming a burden to your friends and family. And yet, despite the modern joy of designer stimulants and mimosas, our 19th-Century ancestors still managed to best us at daytime holiday rampages. Their secret, like everything in the 1800s, was to get up wicked early and drink a fuck-ton of alcohol -- starting with the traditional 13 toasts for each original colony.

If that sounds mild for you morning drunks, consider that each toast typically equated to 13 separate drinks, followed by however many more "toasts" your party wished to make. From there, it was a matter of parading into town with whatever guns or cannons you happened to own and wished to fire recklessly. All while spectacularly toasted.

John Lewis Krimmel
"To Vermont ... And New York ... And New Vermont ..."

I know what you're thinking. "Isn't that extremely dangerous?" Well wonder no longer, because of course it was. These celebrations were a cyclone of violently detached limbs soaring precariously like drunk eagles of liberty. In 1809 New Hampshire, an entire chest of gunpowder ignited, claiming the lives of 20 soldiers and civilians. In 1823 Vermont, one jovial gentleman managed to blow both his arms off with cannon fire. It got so bad that by 1927, a journalist described the festivities like you would a fucking war, saying "so many sacrifices of lives and limbs are calculated to turn a day of rejoicing into one of mourning."

U.S. Marine Corps
The official position of the July Fourth flag up until the 1960s.

Even after we stopped letting drunk people handle large amounts of combustibles, gunpowder continued to hex our addled states into the 1850s in the form of continuous celebratory gunshot wounds -- often by and on small children. In 1854, several teens had their fingers amputated by pistols. In 1856, a decidedly calm July Fourth celebration only involved two shooting incidents. Unfortunately, 1858 was a little worse, as an 11- and 15-year-old had their hands lacerated by gunshot wounds. And this is just the stuff coming from the New York Times July Fourth "accidents and incidents" section, which reads less like a heavyhearted report and more like terrifying Purge propaganda.

NY Times
Such brave tributes on this day of sacrifice!

Thank god we stopped giving our children pistols, right? After all, what 1930s scamp even has time to fire a gun when there are so many town-shaking explosives to set off?

1
Fireworks Once Turned Children Into Tiny Terrorists

Fireworks Land via Westword

Fact: No one would be alive today had it not been for the numerous near-misses between our grandparents and the various projectile shards caused by the torrent of quarter-stick dynamite prizes kids once got out of cereal boxes. I'm only slightly exaggerating here, people. Despite being monkey-brained criminals your ancestors hastily launched from their nether regions, old-timey children were better armed and more barbaric than fucking ISIS. What kind of dark contrition haunted the nation so that we felt it necessary to dole explosives to our kin? Was there some Native American curse I'm unaware of? Look at this shit:

Westword

Westword

Westword
"Check out our full line of automotive novelties, perfect for pranking friends or whacking stool pigeons!"

Those are from magazines from the early 1900s, and yes, for all intents and purposes, they appear to be car bombs ... one of which is designed to wire into the engine like a fucking war crime. Because July Fourth was once a day played out like a Red Dawn scrimmage between volatile child soldiers and paddle-wielding adult overlords ... exactly as the founding fathers intended.

Fireworks Land via Westword

Fireworks Land via Westword
Jesus, blow up all the stupid corncob hat wearers you want, but leave the goddamn dog out of it.

Faces were burned. Fingers torn off. Clothing lit on fire. Being a kid in the 20s and 50s was fucking awesome, like Mad Max with Big Wheels and soda pop -- down to the improvised weaponry.

Science and Invention Magazine

Science and Invention Magazine
Hey uh ... disclaimer: Maybe don't try to make these things at home?

What you're seeing is the July 1925 issue of Science and Invention magazine, which offered feisty tykes instructions on how to make improvised explosive devices in the event that their parents refused to purchase the good stuff. That's right, it was basically The Anarchist Cookbook, and we just handed it to them.

Science and Invention Magazine
"Don't tell anyone where you heard about it."

Fucking glass water bombs. As in, glass bottles which children were instructed to leave sealed on a heated iron plate until they exploded in a shotgun rage of eye-slicing potpourri. For was it not Thomas Paine who said, "Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must undergo the fatigues of being blasted in the face with red-hot glass shards once every year"?

That's how we used to rock, America. Not with sissy flags or some controlled light display, but the same spiteful illogic and lack of foresight we put into every other type of national discourse. Now let's show this bullshit world what true liberty is. Happy Fourth, dickwads.

David is an editor, columnist, and true patriot for Cracked. Rejoice on his Twitter.

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