Before microwave ovens, food trucks and UPS-airlifted fish; before Lite beer, ABC permits and uniform drinking ages; and before Viagra, penicillin and Rolaids—before a great many aspects of modernity as we regard such today, although not before the “chaos and destruction of bonfires, fire-crackers, guns, pistols, rockets, Roman candles, fire-balloons, and every other possible contrivance for making a blaze and a noise,” when you wanted to celebrate the nation’s birthday with food and drink, there were collections of booths out in the street, which were the scene of revelry far exceeding the scale of college football tailgating parties, and if any further proof is needed that these 4th of July booths comprised a cherished institution for the enjoyment of the common man, they also inspired an “anti-booth” movement accusing them of vulgarity and the corruption of public morals.

As Archie Bunker once said, “those were the days.”

Were booths like these confined to Gotham, or did other cities feel the love, too? I suspect the latter, and by the way, Happy Independence Day from everyone at Food & Dining Magazine.

From the late 18th century through the mid-1840s, these food and drink stands were constructed every Fourth of July eve, ready to indulge the herds of celebratory crowds the following day. Among the “light and luscious” fare served up by the booths were oysters, boiled hams, lobster, clams, pineapples, puddings, pies and other treats – with a roasted pig as the centerpiece of each one (National Advocate, July 8, 1824).

Here’s the link: Independence Day Booths: Fourth of July Feasting in 19th Century New York, by Megan Margino at the New York City Public Library.

(Cover photo credit: Vanity Fair, July 14, 1860, via the NYPL archive)