The central event of the 1908 Philadelphia Fourth of July celebrations, reported by The Philadelphia Inquirer, was “The presentation of an American flag by Philadelphia to the Baby State of the Union, Oklahoma, and a reciprocal presentation to this city.”
Oklahoma had voted to become the 46th state in November, 1907. When its representatives came East, to be welcomed at the “seat of American Independence” for their first American Fourth of July, the festival “Chairman Frank W. Lambrith…pointed to the clicking telegraph instrument ready to keep them in touch” via the latest technology, with crowds gathered 1,367 miles away in Guthrie, Oklahoma.
Festivities began with “a delegation of citizens from the new state, occupying a conspicuous place on the platform,” along with “a number of descendants of the signers of the Declaration. Both delegations proceeded to Independence Hall with a military escort.”
Representatives of different religious and civic groups across Philadelphia – what would, in 1908, have been considered an exemplary diversity — were invited to participate, starting with Rabbi Martin Nathans, of Beth Israel Synagogue, who delivered the opening prayer, followed by songs from the Matthew Baldwin School Chorus.
A series of back-and-forth Oklahoma telegrams provided live commentary: “’Guthrie wants to know what we are doing,’ called Chairman Lambrith, looking at a telegram, and we have telegraphed back: ‘We are raising over Independence Hall the flag that will be given to Oklahoma.’ Oklahoma clicked back: ‘Very good.’”
The celebration continued, as “Rev. C. Edgar Adamson, of St. Paul’s M.E. Church, invited all to rise and repeat the Lord’s Prayer….Then came the battle-scarred Oklahoman, (Civil War) Col. T.H. Soward, who stepped to the front on his crutch to be greeted by tremendous cheering…His expressions of the Western peoples’ love for Independence Hall, and their wonder whether the people who had it in their keeping really understood how they loved it, thrilled his auditors…” He proclaimed “that the Liberty Bell spoke…not only to our own countrymen, but…the world is hearing and heeding the Cry of Liberty…”
A graduate of Boys’ Central High School read aloud The Declaration of Independence, then a descendant of one of its Signers delivered a speech, and State flags were exchanged. “Then there were a few minutes of holding of watches, waiting for the first stroke of 12 o’clock. At the first call of the Bell, Mayor Reyburn clicked the telegraph to Guthrie and the salutes were fired and the bands and people began to render “The Star- Spangled Banner” in Philadelphia and Guthrie at once.
After several minutes of joyous noises during forty-six strokes of the (Liberty) Bell, the people gathered into silence again and Rev. Joseph A. Whitaker of St. Francis de Sales pronounced the benediction.” (Bet you were wondering when Saint Francis de Sales Parish would come into the story!).