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The July 4th holiday in old Mauch Chunk was something special

Published June 30. 2012 09:01AM

When it came to deciding on a vacation destination a century ago, Mauch Chunk was an easy choice for thousands of tourists.

And when you added a holiday like Independence Day to that choice, the selection became a no-brainer for vacationers. Whether it was to bask in the old world charm of the town, or riding the Switchback Railroad or trolley to Flagstaff to soak up the breathtaking views, tourists flocked to the town.

Independence Day in 1912 was typical. "Mauch Chunk was visited by 4,000 sightseeing people from New York and New Jersey yesterday," the Daily Times reported. "They came over the Lehigh Valley and Central railroads."

Since automobile travel was starting to impact the travel industry, the Daily Times included a story about tire safety on its front page. Titled "Pointers for Motorists," the article provided tips about tire care, especially the all-important spares. A Michelin tire "expert" advised readers how unprotected, spares could be easily damaged, both by exposure to sun and rain, or when carelessly thrown into a tool box with sharp tools.

For those tourists wanting to get to get from Mauch Chunk to Flagstaff, however, the trolley was the easiest ticket.

"The trolley accommodations were excellent, the large crowds being carried with safety and dispatch," a writer said of the 1912 excursions to the "Roof top of The World."

"Thousands of people flocked to Flagstaff Park yesterday, where many spent the entire day picnicking under the cool and shady trees," he reported. "Many others participated in the dancing at the pavilion while others enjoyed the attractions at the carousal building."

One of the popular attractions at the park during the 1912 Independence Day holiday was a miniature locomotive made by Michael Gorman of Sayre, an engineer on the Lehigh Valley Railroad's famous Black Diamond express train, which ran from New York City to Buffalo, N.Y. The miniature engine ran on a five-inch gauge.

A reporter said the display had been seen by thousands of people at other important railroad hubs including Wilkes-Barre, Buffalo, Elmira, Rochester, Easton and Allentown.

"All were amazed with its mechanical construction," he said. "Many Lehigh Valley and Central Railroad engineers are calling at Flagstaff to see the wonderful little locomotive in operation. Mechanics have pronounced it a master piece of hand work which stamps Mr. Gorman as a mechanical genius."

Although it could also be operated by steam or gasoline, the miniature engine was run by electricity at Flagstaff.

While the daylight activities went off smoothly at Flagstaff, an evening rainstorm marred the fireworks display, a popular highlight to the Independence Day celebration for tourists as well as the locals.

Prior to the holiday, the Daily Times had cautioned residents about fire works safety in an article titled "The Murderous Fourth." The writer noted how "the movement for a safe and sane fourth" had seen progress in recent years. The number of deaths, he pointed out, had declined from 466 in 1903 to 57 in 1911, while injuries had dropped from 5,460 in 1908 to 1,546 in 1911.

On the state level, the Department of Health announced that 67 stations were set up across the commonwealth with supplies of antitoxins and were "ready to meet the usual Fourth of July demands." The Mauch Chunk Pharmacy was one of the sites for the tetanus antitoxins, which were furnished free to the poor.

The antitoxin was to be administered within 24 to 48 ours after the wound had been inflicted.

"Do not consider any wounds trivial, send for a physician at once," Dr. Samuel Dixon, the state health commissioner, advised.

A Daily Times writer, meanwhile, said the use of firecrackers for "an old fashioned Fourth of July celebration" was understandable.

"The fondness for noise and excitement is natural to every healthy boy, and boys of older growth have the firecracker and torpedo and pinwheel and rocket extricably tangled up with associations which they will never willingly let go," he said. "But even the one whose idea of the proper celebration of our country's birthday is one of racket, begun early in the morning and finished late at night, would be shocked if he were to remember that in the past nine years, more persons have been killed and wounded in celebrating the independence of the United States in this manner than were killed and wounded in all the seven years of the Revolutionary War which won that independence."

He said the majority who celebrate with salvos and firecrackers are mindful of the dangers.

"We know just as well that the old-fashioned Fourth means that thousands will recklessly destroy life and limb, not only of themselves but of the rest of us," he said. "Nobody's eyes or skin or life can be safe during the popular style of celebration where folks who should have received the attention of the fool-killer long ago are free to throw explosives around promiscuously. Let it be remembered that even a slight burn or bruise from a firecracker or toy pistol may cause lockjaw."

The writer stated that those who will not be careful with explosives must be restrained and those who are careful "ought to be willing to sacrifice a fleeing amusement for the good of others."

"Real patriotism should celebrate the Fourth in thus remembering the good of the country and its standing for saneness in the eyes of the world," he said.

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