The Atlantic

The Inequality of Summer Leisure

This season of social distancing will also be one of social closeness between neighbors—illuminating divides of race, class, and place.
Source: Bryan R. Smith / AFP / Getty

Here’s a helpful phrase from history: “emergencies of over-patriotism.” That’s from the New-York Tribune in 1909, from one of the many newspaper accounts from the turn of the century lamenting the DIY fireworks launched by the masses every Independence Day. American industrialization and immigration had created an urban working class in need of ways to blow off steam, and pyrotechnics provided an outlet—at the cost of hundreds of lives accidentally lost every summer.

In response to the annual boom in s, the “Safe and Sane Fourth of July” reform movement pushed for many of the fireworks regulations still in place today. But this development was not merely about public, sought to “repress and replace the distinctively boisterous and ethnic commemorations by the working class,” and “did not focus on just any mob but specifically on the city’s growing immigrant populations from southern and eastern Europe.”

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