Documenting the American South

Doc South header logo Home
Commemorative Landscapes of North Carolina
Commemorative Landscapes of North Carolina
Commemorative Landscapes banner
  • Monument Name

    Fourth of July Plaque, Winston-Salem

  • Type

    Plaque

  • Subjects

    Local History

    Early Republic

  • City

    Winston-Salem

  • County

    Forsyth

  • Description

    The marker is a circular bronze plaque commemorating the first official Fourth of July celebration in the United States by residents of Salem on July 4, 1783. Thirty inches in diameter, the plaque also commemorates the year 1966 as the 200th anniversary of Winston-Salem's founding.

    Images: View of Salem square in Old Salem

  • Inscription

    COMMEMORATING / THE FIRST OFFICIAL / 4TH OF JULY CELEBRATION / IN THE UNITED STATES / AT SALEM, NORTH CAROLINA, 1783 / THIS PLAQUE UNVEILED IN THE / 200TH ANNIVERSARY YEAR / OF WINSTON-SALEM / JULY 4, 1966

  • Custodian

    Custodial responsibility is shared between Old Salem, Salem College, and the Salem Congregation due to the communal use of the square in which the marker is located.

  • Dedication Date

    July 4, 1966

  • Decade

    1960s

  • Geographic Coordinates

    36.087120 , -80.241560 View in Geobrowsemap pin

  • Supporting Sources

      "Commemoration of the First Fourth of July Observance in Salem, 1966," Digital Forsyth, (accessed May 22, 2014) Link

      "Governor Alexander Martin's Fourth of July Proclamation, 1783," The G.S. 132 Files Blog of the State Archives of North Carolina, (accessed May 22, 2014) Link

      "Old Salem to Re-create State's First Celebration," The Dispatch, (Winston-Salem, NC), June 29, 2000, 2C, (accessed May 22, 2014) Link

      Allen, Betsy. "The Reporter, The President, and The Plaque," Old Salem Museums & Gardens, Summer/Fall 2012, 10-11, (accessed May 23, 2014) Link

      Edwards, Arlene. "First July 4th Celebration Noted," Winston-Salem Journal, (Winston-Salem, NC), July 5, 1966, 1, 9

      Fries, Adelaide, ed., "Salem Diary," in Records of the Moravians in North Carolina (Raleigh, NC: Edwards & Broughton Company, 1930), 1841.

      Young, Wesley. "Plaque Marks the Lyndon Johnson Visit That Never Was," Winston-Salem Journal, (Winston-Salem, NC), December 12, 2012, (accessed May 22, 2014) Link

  • Public Site

    Yes

  • Materials & Techniques

    Bronze

  • Monument Dedication and Unveiling

    A crowd gathered on July 4th, 1966 to commemorate the 200th Anniversary of Winston-Salem and dedicate the plaque for the first Fourth of July celebration. President Johnson was invited and a plaque mentioning Johnson's name was kept nearby in hopes that he would attend. However, ultimately, the Secretary of the Treasury, Henry H. Fowler, spoke instead and the present plaque was installed.

    Fowler's speech had a two-part message with one portion echoing the thanksgiving for peace, as the original Moravian celebration intended, and the other portion declaring that the American Revolution had not yet ended. He spoke on the importance of equality and the significance of every individual.

    The ceremony was preceded by a lovefeast hosted by Home Moravian Church for more than 700 people, including church members and other invited guests. The music during the lovefeast was the same as that of the original celebration which had not been sung altogether since 1783. The director of the Moravian Music Foundation, Dr. Ewold Nolte, conducted the Home Moravian choir, an eight-piece orchestra, the organist James Salzwedel, and the audience for the musical portions of the service.

  • Subject Notes

    In 1783, Governor Alexander Martin of North Carolina declared the Fourth of July to be a day of thanksgiving. The original celebration in Salem was a response to this message. The following passage from Records of the Moravians in North Carolina describes the initial Moravian celebration.

    "According to the order of the government of this State we celebrated a day of thanksgiving for the restoration of peace. The congregation was awakened by the trombonists. At the beginning of the preaching service the Te Deum was sung, with trombone accompaniment. The Watch-Word for January 20th, the day on which the Peace Preliminaries were signed, was: The God of Jacob is our refuge, which was preached by Br. Benzien. The service closed with the singing of: Glory to God in the highest. At two o'clock there was a happy lovefeast, during which a Psalm of Joy was sung with thankful hearts. In the evening at eight o'clock the congregation again assembled in the Saal, and the choir sang: Praise be to Thee, Who sittest above the cherubim. Then the congregation formed a circle in from the Gemein Haus, and from there passed in procession through the main street of the town,with music and the antiphonal song of two choirs. The street was illuminated. Returning to the Gemein Haus the congregation again formed a circle, and with the blessing of the Lord was dismissed to rest. Hearts were filled with the peace of God, evident during the entire day and especially during the procession, and all around there was silence, even the wind being still."

  • Controversies

    A newspaper article in The Dispatch from June 29, 2000 confirmed that the celebration in Salem was the first Fourth of July celebration in North Carolina, but, out of the thirteen original states, Massachusetts actually held a celebration before Salem's 1783 celebration.

  • Location

    The plaque is located near the center of Salem square in Old Salem where two brick pathways meet.

  • Landscape

    Embedded in the bricks of two pathways in Salem Square, the plaque is surrounded by several trees and grass areas.

Know anything else about this monument that isn't mentioned here? If you have additional information on this or any other monument in our collection fill out the form at the Contact Us link in the footer. Thank you.