Tuesday, Jul 23, 2013
Morristown National Historical Park was established by Congress on March 2, 1933. Four months later, on July 4th, formal dedication ceremonies were conducted, with an estimated ten thousand visitors present. Newly elected President Franklin D. Roosevelt, unable to attend, sent a telegram which stated, in part, that the new park “will serve for all time as a splendid memorial to the gallant heroes who devoted their lives to the cause of human freedom.”
On July 4th each year, the park has celebrated the dedication with a reading of the Declaration of Independence, a tradition continued for 23 years. This year, to celebrate the 80th anniversary of the park, the event was moved to the center of town and held on the historic Morristown Green, the site of colonial-era farmers’ markets and proclamations, an appropriate venue for this event. The move was part of a larger collaboration under the “Revolutionary Times” title.
Numerous partners were brought together to establish a foundation for the celebration of New Jersey’s 350th anniversary next year. These partners included the Morris County Tourism Bureau, the Crossroads of the American Revolution NHA, the Washington Association, Morris County Park Commission and the Town of Morristown.
The hot and humid weather did not thwart an audience, estimated at over 1,000 people, from attending the ceremonies. Starting at noon, Park historian Eric Olsen regaled all assembled, with 18th century tales and jokes. He also taught everyone how to offer a proper “Huzzah!”
Ranger Thomas Winslow then performed a spirited, and emotional, reading of the Declaration of Independence. Following the reading, thirteen traditional toasts and a “feu de joie” (fire of joy) musket salute, were presented with assistance from the audience and members of the 2nd New Jersey, Helms’ Company.
Several speakers, including the park’s acting superintendent, Debbie Conway, Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen, and Morristown mayor Timothy Dougherty, added their eloquent thoughts about the park and the area’s role in the cause for independence. An added touch, a large, frosted cake bedecked with “Happy 80th Anniversary” was shared with all participants.
In the evening, festivities relocated to nearby Lewis Morris County Park. Musical entertainment, including the Old Barracks’ Fife and Drum Corp, family activities, and spectacular fireworks, funded by the mayor of the Town of Morristown, completed this historic day’s events.
As the first of many national historical parks dedicated to the preservation and interpretation of America’s history, Morristown continues to expand upon, and enhance, the mission with which it was first designated by Congress eighty years ago.