How to Celebrate A Real Vintage Americana 4th of July

It’s not a real summer without backyard barbecues, s’mores, and fireworks, and nothing kindles your childhood nostalgia quite like a good old-fashioned 4th of July celebration.

Heck, July 4th is a vintage American summer’s main event. Grilling outside, decorating in red-white-and-blue, watching fireworks, and spending quality time with friends and family. Hosting (or attending) a July 4th celebration is just about the most old-fashioned Americana thing you can do.

Yep, celebrating (and decorating for) the 4th of July is just about the most classic, vintage, Americana summer thing that you can do, and here are 7 classic Americana-inspired decorations for your Independence Day.

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Finding Vintage 4th of July Decorations

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When it comes to finding vintage decorations, I usually turn to Amazon and Ebay.

Ebay is my number 1 choice for vintage things, even before Etsy. I make a point of looking in my local thrift stores and antique stores, but this just isn’t a good area for thrift stores or garage sale finds, also.

After that, I turn to reproduction sources, like Schooner Bay Company and Vermont Country Store, to fill in the gaps. You can find good reproduction retro decorations at Vermont Country Store and Amazon that help with the old-fashioned holiday feels.

A lot of time they are cheaper than true vintage, especially for consumable decor like paper decorations. I also like to use reproductions for tableware and other things that will be in contact with food, because of lead issues.

I usually prefer to buy from sources other than Amazon when I can, but I look there as well.

Create a Nostalgic Americana 4th of July for Your Family

July 4th always feels like summer’s main event.

After all, it’s our country’s birthday, and it should be enough to bring us all together. I feel incredibly lucky to be born an American, and I try to pass that on to my children as well.

And even though we have problems (obviously every culture and government has those), we are an amazing society that gives people the best lives that they can have in this day and age. (I mean, the USSR had to build a wall to keep people in, not out. And China is so desperate for our money to fund their projects that they are creating and staffing illegal cannabis farms.) Rather than rant and rail against the whole country, we should celebrate what it has given us: a place where we CAN complain about the government, as a right. We are incredibly lucky to be American.

So read the Declaration of Independence and celebrate with a backyard barbecue, a neighborhood block party, or a gathering with friends and family. Hosting (or attending) a July 4th barbecue is just about the most classically vintage Americana thing you can do in the summer.

The 4th of July is a time for families to come together to celebrate freedom, independence, and the spirit of our nation.

Anyway, rant over. As you can tell, I love the 4th of July, and I also love decorating for the holidays, and Independence Day is one of my favorites. It’s right up there with Halloween and Christmas.

Here are some of the ways that I celebrate a vintage Glorious Fourth.

1. Flags and Bunting

The #1 thing you need for a patriotic holiday is — flags and bunting!

For example, look at this house (from the 1900-1910s, a bit early, but still!):

Nowadays, the U.S. Flag Code tells us not to use flags as decoration, and to use bunting that starts with a blue stripe instead. So in the 1940s and 1950s, you’d’ve seen plenty of bunting on porches and lamposts all over town.

I get the best flags from the Vermont Country Store. But I usually make my own bunting, because I have a hard time finding bunting I like. There are good tutorials for bunting on Instructables.


2. Use Vintage Postcards and Pictures

I do love my vintage picture garlands for holidays, and 4th of July has some fabulous ones!

I like to get vintage postcards and pictures from The Graphics Fairy, then print them and make my own decorations with them. But there are also vintage postcard garlands on Amazon, if you don’t want to print your own.

Once you have the images, there are all sorts of ways to display them. You can use vintage flower frogs and card stands, like Vettel Farm. Or you can make a garland out of them.

I usually make garlands out of them, and also send postcards made from them, rather than regular cards for this holiday.


3. Host a Backyard BBQ

Getting together to share a meal with family and friends is an important way to celebrate Independence Day

After all, vintage 4th of July was about being happy and proud you were Americans. It didn’t represent Eisenhower or Adlai Stevenson or Richard Nixon.

Grill (easier than actual BBQ) staples like burgers, hot dogs, and ribs. Offer sides such as potato salad, corn on the cob, coleslaw, and baked beans. For dessert, serve up watermelon slices, cake and homemade ice cream, and even ice cream sundaes. Have maraschino cherries and bottles of coke for cherry coke, alongside beer and ice. Keep popsicles around all day for the kids.

Eating together reminds us that we ARE all together; it reconnects us. And the flag suddenly represents ALL OF US in the country and real solidarity among us.

And who doesn’t like classic backyard BBQ food?


4. Go to a Community Event

Traditionally, cities, towns, and villages held community events for 4th of July.

Remember the movie The Music Man? They had a community exhibition, and it was even supposed to have a patriotic tableau! In the 1950s, communities often held track events and competitions (Nathan’s Hot Dogs still does) at a local school or stadium.

Around here, there are parades, fiestas, and pancake breakfasts in various towns and cities. Sometimes there’s a carnival, too. Bike parades used to be very popular, and some of the small towns still have them. You decorated your bike like a patriotic parade float, and the prettiest bike got a prize. (I never won.) And school bands played at the events.


Maybe, if you don’t have a community event to go to, you can start a neighborhood bike parade for kids! Or create a family ritual of going to a local historical park or living history museum and learning more about our country’s history.

And on that note…

5. Read the Declaration of Independence

One thing that I have been doing with my family for years, is reading the Declaration of Independence aloud before we eat dinner.

When I was little, I found that this happened at EVERY 4th of July event mentioned in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie series. And I decided then and there that I would find a community event that did that, or that I would do it myself. Well, I can’t find an event that has political candidate speeches and reciting the Declaration from memory while a brass band plays Sousa all day.

So, now I just do it myself (and everyone should read it at least once!).

From the Library of Congress

6. Wear Red, White, and Blue

Now, I will say that Madame Genevieve Antoine-Dariaux, my go-to advisor on midcentury elegance says that it is never chic to wear red, white, and blue on Independence Day — but I’m going to do it anyway.

This year, my favorite is this from 1960:

Source (affiliate)

This is a scoop-necked, darted, short-sleeved bodice and full, gathered skirt is a small blue-and-white gingham. The vintage pattern is Vogue 9732 from 1959, and it is shown that she is at least wearing it with red sandals. I wear it with a straw hat with a red ribbon, straw handbag, red-white-and-blue silk scarf, white or beige shortie gloves and bolero in town, and beige retro-style sandals that I get at Vermont Country Store.

And for the Glorious Fourth, I add ribbon cockades!

Source and Tutorial

7. Watch Fireworks

There are all sorts of historical reasons for why fireworks are part of America’s birthday.

The biggest one is that up until the American Revolution. only royalty and the elite even had access to fireworks. The 2nd amendment meant that every American could get gunpowder, which was the (rather dangerous) foundation of fireworks — which meant that fireworks were now available to everyone who could afford them. Now, communities put on fireworks displays as the pinnacle of the celebration.

From LIFE Magazine, 1954

Are fireworks slightly overrated? In my humble opinion, NEVER, but especially at Fourth of July and New Year’s Eve. (I do put cotton in my ears, and make sure all the pets are inside first.)

Anyway, that’s how I create a vintage, traditional, and old-fashioned celebration of the Glorious Fourth!

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