Artifact Spotlight — 4th of July Edition

July 1, 2023
Front side of letter written in script from Senator Sam Houston
Back side of letter written in script from Senator Sam Houston

Letter from Sam Houston accepting an invitation to a 4th of July celebration - June 20, 1848

For Americans, celebrating the 4th of July isn’t something new. We can trace this tradition back to when our Declaration of Independence was ratified in 1776. It is no surprise that in 1848 the “Democratic Citizens of Cumberland County [Pennsylvania]” wanted to show their patriotism and celebrate this momentous date in our history. However, 1848 was even more special because it was an election year. What better way to gather support for the Democratic Party Nominee, Lewis Cass, than to have a 4th of July celebration? Better yet, why not invite some famous individuals to the program such as Senator Sam Houston?

Here we have a letter from Senator Sam Houston, dated June 20th, 1848 to the Committee of Invitation, formally accepting their invitation to this celebration occurring at Holcomb’s Grove in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania.

As a guest of honor, Senator Houston was invited to the podium to speak to the gathering,

“Shout after shout went up for the Hero of San Jacinto. The cheering continued for several minutes, during which time the great statesman of Texas seemed deeply affected….It [the speech] was characterized by great humor, strong sense and statesman like views, and was at times thrilling in the extreme, and produced profound impression upon his auditory…He occupied about an hour and a half in delivering his speech, and all who heard him were not only gratified, but astonished at the eloquence of the speaker.” (The Volunteer, Carlisle PA, July 6th, 1848)

The Volunteer, reported that “Never, in the palmiest days of the Democracy of “old Mother Cumberland” was such as demonstration witnessed. It was estimated that, at the least computation, between seven and eight hundred persons were here assembled.” (The Volunteer, Carlisle PA, July 6th, 1848)

Despite the success of this holiday gathering, the Democratic party would be fractured over ideals on the expansion of slavery, causing a contest of support between Lewis Cass – Democratic Party and Martin Van Buren – Free Soil Party. That split would play an important factor in the overall campaign, in turn leading to a Whig victory that would see Mexican War hero, Zachary Taylor, rise to the Presidential Office.

This letter from the Phil Collins Texana Collection and several other Sam Houston artifacts are on display at the Alamo Exhibit at the Ralston Family Collection Center, open daily 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.