What did the presidents do on July Fourth?

An image of a small town with a green field. A larger brick building in on the right.
On July 4, 1815, after the burning of Washington, Madison used the Octagon as the White House.  It is pictured on the right behind a row of tall trees in this painting by S. Lewis, c. 1813.

S. Lewis, Octagon Museum

See how different Presidents fit Independence Day into their busy schedule over the years.
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1791 - President Washington celebrates in Lancaster Pennsylvania with an address, fine cuisine, and walking about town.

1793 - President Washington is in residence at Mt. Vernon and attend festivities in Alexandria, VA.

1795 - President Washington goes to Philadelphia.

1798 - President Adams is in Philadelphia where he reviews military parade with a reception later in the afternoon for guests.

1799 - President Adams attends an oration by John Lowell, Jr. at the old South Meeting House in Boston.

1801 - President Jefferson presides over the first Fourth of July public reception at the White House with many others following during his two terms.

1809 - President Madison opens the White House to various “Heads of Departments.”

1812 - Madison is at the Capitol for a ceremony, and then reviews a military parade before entertaining guests a the White house.

1815 - President Madison goes to the Capitol and then hosts a reception at Octagon House.

1821 - President Monroe is ill and the Executive Mansion closed.

1822 - President Monroe observed the holiday at his farm in VA.

1825 - President John Q. Adams listens to the Marine Band perform at the White House before reviewing volunteer companies. At the Capitol, he listens to a reading of the Declaration of Independence followed by a White House reception.

1826 - President John Q. Adams is accompanied by the Vice President to the Capitol in a procession. Later, there is a White House reception. The Presidents father and former President Jefferson die on the 50th Anniversary of the Declaration.

1829 - President Jackson holds two public White House receptions.

1830 - President Jackson travels to the Hermitage with his arrival expected on July 6 in Tennessee.

1839 - President Van Buren is in New York at a festival and then a sabbath school observance with thousands of children.

1842 - President Tyler opens the White House to an unusually large number of citizens. That morning, he entertained Sunday schools with two address by the children.

Painting of a crowd observing a pulley lowering a stone as a man guides it into place.
On July 4th, 1848, President Polk presides at the laying of the Washington Monument cornerstone.

Library of Congress

1848 - President Polk has guests at the White House, including former first lady Dolly Madison. Later he witnesses the laying of the cornerstone of the Washington Monument with future President Lincoln in attendance followed by a military parade.

1850 - President Taylor attends a Washington Monument tribute. After returning to the White House he consumes cherries and milk. He falls ill and dies on July 9.

1855 - President Pierce and the first lady took a beach vacation at Cape May, New Jersey.

1861 - President Lincoln reviews Twentynine New York Militia regiments on the White House lawn. He raises a flag at the Treasury Department.

1863 - President Lincoln releases an address remembering “the many gallant fallen” and honors the Army of the Potomac. With the confederate surrender at Vicksburg Mississippi, the President delivers a “Fourth of July” speech on July 7 from a second floor window of the White House to an “immense” crowd.

1868 - President Johnson executes a Third Amnesty Proclamation that exonerates all who participated in the Confederate Rebellion.

1872 - President Grant is vacationing at Long Beach, New Jersey with a joyful backdrop of cannon fire, bell ringing, and a fireworks display.

1881 - This is one of the grimmest of July Fourths given that President Garfield was hit two days earlier by an assassin's bullet. The nation is uncharacteristically subdued on the holiday.

1891 - President Harrison vacations in Cape May, New Jersey.

1902 - President Theodore Roosevelt travels to Schenley Park, Pittsburgh where he speaks before 200,000 people.

1906 - President Theodore Roosevelt is at the “summer White House” in Oyster Bay, New York where he speaks from the home’s piazza using a Lincoln text.

1909 - President Taft is in residence at the new “summer White House” in Beverly, MA. He attends church on Sunday, July 4th. On the 5th, he observes the 250th anniversary of Norwich, Connecticut with a military parade and a public reception.
A crowd of people gather to see the president speak.
Video of Theodore Roosevelt at Schenley in 1902. Roosevelt spoke in front of 200, 000 people on July 4.

Library of Congress

1902 - President Theodore Roosevelt travels to Schenley Park, Pittsburgh where he speaks before 200,000 people. See what this event was like on the Library of Congress website.

1906 - President Theodore Roosevelt is at the “summer White House” in Oyster Bay, New York where he speaks from the home’s piazza using a Lincoln text.

1909 - President Taft is in residence at the new “summer White House” in Beverly, MA. He attends church on Sunday, July 4th. On the 5th, he observes the 250th anniversary of Norwich, Connecticut with a military parade and a public reception.

Several men walking side by side. Two men wear top hats and two are in uniform.
President Wilson is escorted at Gettysburg on the 50th Anniversary of the conclusion of the battle on July 4, 1913.

Library of Congress

1913 - President Wilson travels to Gettysburg, PA for a Fourth of July battle reunion speech.

1914 - President Wilson is at Independence Hall in Philadelphia where he interprets the meaning of the Declaration and speaks the memorable line, “Our country, right or wrong.”

1918 - President Wilson speaks at an “International Fourth of July Celebration” at Mount Vernon, VA. Back in Washington DC, he is in the audience for a pageant at the Capitol that is entitled “Democracy Triumphant.”

1926 - President Coolidge is in southern New Jersey for the opening of the Delaware River bridge. He plants a willow tree similar to the one at George Washington's grave on the 150th anniversary of the Declaration. The net day, he speaks a the Philadelphia Sesquicentennial Exposition.

1928 - President Coolidge enjoys time trout fishing in Superior, Wisconsin.

1930 - President Hoover is vacationiong on the Rapidan River in VA with a large contingent of guests.

1934 - President Roosevelt spends the holiday in the Bahamas.

1936 - President Roosevelt travels to Monticello to give a eulogy in honor of Jefferson.

1937 - President Roosevelt goes to a church fair, and on the Fourth attends church with a picnic at his Val-Kill farm for the White House staff and the press.

1946 - President President Truman retreats to Roosevelt’s Shangri-La in Maryland’s Catoctin Mountains.

1947 - President Truman travels to Monticello. He lays a wreath on Jefferson’s tomb.

1951 - President Truman is at the Washington Monument grounds speaking at the 175th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

1953 - President Eisenhower is at Camp David. He plays golf at a nearby course.

1954 - President Eisenhower is at Camp David.

1956 - President Eisenhower is in residence at this Gettysburg farm.

1957 - President Eisenhower plays golf.

1961 - President Kennedy is at Hyannis Port, MA for sailing and fireworks.

1964 - President Johnson is at his ranch in TX.

1965 - President Johnson is at his ranch in TX.

1969 - President Nixon is in Key Biscayne, FL.

1970 - President Nixon is at the Western White House in San Clemente, CA. He meets with Vietnam peace talks representative David K. E. Bruce. Later that evening, the President’s taped July 4th message is played on the National Mall in Washington, DC.

A man in a modern suit stands in a covered wagon and waves his hand.
President Ford designates Valley Forge a national park on July 4, 1976.

Gerald R. Ford: Presidential Library & Museum

1976 - On the bicentennial anniversary, President Ford travels to Valley Forge, PA. He speaks there and signs legislation that transfers management of the park to the National Park Service. Independence Hall is his next stop for another speech and finally to New York for a review of the tall ships.

1977 - President Carter returns from Camp David and views fireworks from the White House balcony.

1983 - President Reagan is in Santa Barbara, CA at Rancho Cielo.

1989 - President G. H. W. Bush is in Kennebunkport, ME.

1991 - President G. H. W. Bush and first lady Barbara Bush go the Marshfield, MO and Grand Rapids, MI. Parades and speeches mark the day with a return to Washington, DC later for fireworks.

1999 - President Clinton and Mrs. Clinton watch the fireworks from the Truman balcony.

2004 - President G. W. Bush goes to Charleston, WV where he praises US Troops in Iraq and the National Guard.

2008 - President G. W. Bush, like three previous presidents, hosts a naturalization ceremony for 72 US citizens from 30 countries.

Silhouette of President and first lady Obama looking at fireworks.
President Obama and the first lady enjoy fireworks on the National Mall.

White House Photo

2010 - President Obama on the White House south lawn fires up the barbeque pit for 1,200 members of the US Armed Forces.

2017 - President Donald Trump tweeted “Getting ready to celebrate the 4th of July with a big crowd at the White House. Happy 4th to everyone. Our country will grow and prosper!”

Fourth of July information is from http://gurukul.american.edu/heintze/fourth.htm, James Heintze

Last updated: August 29, 2018