As It Was: Obligatory Whiskers Mar Independence Day
In May 1939, the Fourth of July committee in Crescent City, Calif., chose pirates as its celebration theme, complete with treasure hunts, parades, water and land sports, and a mussel feed.
Things got rowdy after the committee decreed a month earlier that whiskers and costumes were compulsory, warning, “Wear ‘Em or Else.” Men were to stop shaving by June 1 and train their beards in many shapes and designs. Those who refused to participate would be dealt by a panel of “whiskerino” judges. A stockade was erected on Second Street.
When a group of men opposed to growing whiskers organized under the name “Slickers,” two were seized, handcuffed to a telephone pole and whiskers painted on their faces.
In return, Slickers stole the Whiskerinos’ stockade and captured and shaved several bearded men.
Mutual shaving attacks and whisker paintings escalated. A truck with a barber chair cruised up and down the streets, and even some bearded tourists were forcefully sheared.
To settle the feud, organizers lifted the whisker-growing mandate and scheduled a softball game between the two sides.
Whiskers were not compulsory the following Fourth of July.
Source: "Whiskers or Uniform, Edict for Celebration." Reflections of Del Norte County, vol. 9, no. 3, pp. 8-9