A “glorious display of pageantry” on Fifth Avenue

Imagine if Fifth Avenue today was decked out in American flags as it was on July 4, 1916—with the Stars and Stripes flying from the roofs and facades of so many buildings.

Impressionist painter Childe Hassam captured this scene, likely near his longtime studio at 95 Fifth Avenue at 17th Street.

Massachusetts-born Hassam, a successful and accomplished artist in his era, gave the painting an illustrious name: “The Fourth of July, 1916 (The Greatest Display of the American Flag Ever Seen in New York, Climax of the Preparedness Parade in May).”

The painting demonstrates how “New Yorkers rallied with patriotic fervor to support the ‘preparedness movement’ in anticipation of the nation’s inevitable entry into the Great War in Europe,” states the New-York Historical Society, which was gifted the painting in 2016.

“Advocates of the preparedness cause staged parades in cities all over the country from 1914 until 1916. One such parade in May 1916―up Broadway and Fifth Avenue, led by an enormous, 95-foot flag and lasting over 11 hours―inspired Hassam to begin working on a series of works, which he painted over the course of three years from 1916 to 1918.”

Hassam supported the US entry into the war; he was a francophile who studied and lived in Paris, like many of his contemporaries.

[Above left, “The Avenue in the Rain,” 1917; at right, “Flags on the Waldorf,” 1916]

A grander parade on July 4, 1916 inspired “The Fourth of July, 1916,” described by the New-York Historical Society as a “glorious display of pageantry.”

Hassam ultimately completed about 30 works in his flags series, depicting the US flag on other city buildings and on Allies Day in May 1917 (above).

If you like his flags, you must see his evocative streetscapes that capture the beauty and poetry on day-to-day life in our metropolis.

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5 Responses to “A “glorious display of pageantry” on Fifth Avenue”

  1. Kenny Says:

    Thanks for the Independence Day warm up, proud and colorful!
    American Flag in NYC Youtube slideshow:

  2. Bill Wolfe Says:

    I very much enjoyed looking through all of your previous posts on Hassam and his paintings. I’ve always enjoyed his flag paintings, but now having seen all of these other works, I have to say I genuinely love his work. Do you have any recommendations as to a book collection of his paintings?

    • ephemeralnewyork Says:

      Hi Bill, thanks for your comment. I don’t know of any book of Hassam paintings, unfortunately. (I hope to remedy that in the near future, though.) I can direct you to this site, however, which includes images of all of his paintings, the site says
      : https://www.frederickhassam.org/

      • Bill Wolfe Says:

        Thank you for the link! I’ve discovered I’ve been mispronouncing his last name for my entire adult life! Ah, well. (:

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