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As It Was: Jacksonville Callithumpians Create Havoc on Fourth of July

Southern Oregon’s early Fourth of July celebrations were exuberant, all-day events, often livened by a group calling themselves the “Callithumpians.”  Callithump is an Americanism stretching back to 18th century England that refers to noisy groups that created humorous havoc to disrupt political rallies by playing loud, discordant instruments, including cowbells, tin horns, pots, pans, and saws.
In 1907, the Jacksonville, Ore., Callithumpians debunked Independence Day activities.  Oregon Gov. George E. Chamberlain first delivered a serious patriotic speech and then joined the Callithumpian parade.  He drove a carriage with local citizens dressed as “Uncle Sam,” “Miss Mehitable Hangtogether,” “George E. Chambermaid,” and “Retiring George Washington.”

Humorous skits and speeches followed the Callithumpian parade.  A man wearing white gloves and dressed in his wife’s clothing read the “Decapendence of Indignation.”  It ended by declaring all men “free to do nothing and equal to zero,” which was followed by a parody on Washington’s Farewell Address.  A newspaper joined the fun, reporting the “Callithumpian police” had put the governor through the “third degree,” before calming the boisterous crowd and rescuing him.

Sources: "alphaDictionary.com." callithumpian; Dr. Goodword's Office, alphaDictionary.com, 2018, https://www.alphadictionary.com/goodword/word/callithumpian. Accessed 7 May 2018; "Jacksonville "Did Things Up Brown". Telegram, 6 July 1907; Newbury, Gus. "Eagle Had Reason to Scream When Jacksonville Citizens Celebrated Forty Years Ago." Medford Mail Tribune, 2 July 1947; Provost, Sarah C. "Callithumpian." Oxford Music Online; Grove Music Online, Oxford University Press, 26 Nov. 2013, www.oxfordmusiconline.com/grovemusic/search?q=Sarah+Provost&searchBtn=Search&isQuickSearch=true. Accessed 7 May 2018.

Sharon Bywater of Ashland, Oregon grew up in Southern California. She taught English literature and writing at Syracuse University in New York, where she also wrote and edited adult literacy books and published freelance articles in local media. Later, she lived in Washington, D.C., where she worked as an international telecommunications policy advisor at the U.S. Department of Commerce. She has Master’s degrees in English and Communications Management.