Summer is full of patriotic holidays, including Memorial Day, Flag Day, and of course, July 4th! There were really explosive, fantastic celebrations honoring The Bicentennial and The 100th Birthday of the Statue of Liberty, and there are vintage collectibles from those huge festivities to include in your vintage July 4th collections and celebrations. While I wouldn’t recommend it, I’ve even seen vintage, very old fireworks for sale at an annual July 4th flea market. Fireworks packaging and empty containers are, however, safe, and often appear at antique shows.
The 4th of July is a good time to review some of the histories behind the holiday, including the story behind the national anthem and the star spangled banner it celebrates. For Francis Scott Key, who penned the lyrics, the flag was a symbol of hope for himself as a prisoner of war, but also for the entire country. He watched the battle of Ft. McHenry during the War of 1812 as a British prisoner, and he knew that as long as he could see the American flag, the United States would still be the United States and the land of the free and home of the brave.
Here is a brief survey of our top five vintage and antique collectibles for July 4th:
1. Patriotic Jewelry: There are American flags studded with rhinestones, Colonists in hard plastic, Uncle Sam in enamel, or stars and flags decorated with ribbons and eagles of every kind to wear on the 4th. Some pins represent the donkey and elephant mascots of the Democrats and Republicans, while others represent sailors and other soldiers. There are also many examples of Miriam Haskell red, white, and blue jewelry, some done with glass beads, and others with enamel. Pins, earrings, necklaces, bracelets, and matched sets all work equally well with a patriotic themed outfit.
2. Red, White, and Blue Fashions, including those worn by The Suffragettes: Patriotic outfits make the 4th of July even more special. T-shirt fans will find a wide variety featuring eagles, The Liberty Bell, flags, and historical figures. Presidential museums and National Parks have offered souvenir T-shirts and caps that fit this category because many are now vintage. Of course, nothing is more American than denim, and vintage denim jeans, jackets, skirts, and vests look great with patriotic scarves and jewelry.
3. Statue of Liberty Collectibles and Books by and about Emma Lazarus: Postcards and vintage photographs are interesting collectibles, as are other types of paper ephemera. There are also books about the statue itself, its 1986 restoration, and the history of Ellis Island. Die-hard Lady Liberty fans also enjoy collecting books about the woman who penned the famous poem associated with the statue, “The New Colossus” (“Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free . . .”), Emma Lazarus.
Lazarus, a relative of United States Supreme Court Justice Benjamin Cardozo, was a famous 19th-century American poet in her own right, and counted Ralph Waldo Emerson among her friends and mentors. Antiques of River Oaks features a Steuben Glass commemorative prism, circa 1986, with the poem “The New Colossus” engraved on it. Her poems are still in print, and there are many good vintage editions of them, as well as other books about her.
4. 18th Century Antiques: For those who want a really retro July 4th, consider 18th century furniture, china, and kitchenware. Trinity Antiques has gorgeous 18th century silkwork representing the needle arts. Study it, and you can just see Martha Washington stitching away on a similar piece while her husband fought the Revolution. Blue and white 18th century export china would look great on a July 4th table as well. Here’s a real piece of history, a George III boxwood and mahogany tea chest. Tea Party, anyone!! Ruby Lane shops also feature 18th century furniture and floral china.
5. Civil War Collectibles: Civil War enthusiasts have a culture all their own. They are among the most passionate and knowledgeable collectors that I have met. Weapons, photographs, uniforms, letters, books, bullets, militaria, and even drums appeal to these curators of history. Many Lincoln buffs join this group and collect memorabilia from the 16th President’s term in office. Vintage fashions and other antiques from the era are also popular.
Bonus: Election buttons and political collectibles, including souvenirs from the Presidential Libraries and Museums also fit the patriotic theme for July 4th. Many election buttons are collectible but affordable, and make great favors for your guests at a July 4th party or picnic.
Americans love their red, white, and blue, and the plethora of 4th of July collectibles could fill books. Don’t forget, in fact, records, tapes, and early films of patriotic subjects, dishes, kitchenware, furniture, even home décor that fits the theme. Happy hunting, and remember to be safe with those fireworks!
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