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The Wintersburg Village Japanese Association and fireworks in the Huntington Beach Township

An advertisement announces the July 4th events at Huntington Beach would include Japanese wrestling, and “magnificent daylight fireworks and beautiful night fireworks by the Japanese Society of Smeltzer.” The Smeltzer Japanese Association took its name from the unincorporated settlement, Smeltzer, near Beach Boulevard and Edinger Avenue in what is now north Huntington Beach. The Association met in Wintersburg Village on the second floor of the Tashima market on Wintersburg Road. (Santa Ana Register, July 2, 1910)

The first fireworks in Huntington Beach were brought by the Smeltzer Japanese Association in 19051, as their contribution to the patriotic celebration. By 1910, the daylight and evening fireworks were an advertised highlight of the Huntington Beach July 4th events, beginning in the morning and continuing through nightfall.

In 1910, the saltwater plunge near the Huntington Beach pier was open and the Pacific Electric Railway line along the beach dropped visitors off next to the pier by the hundreds.

Thousands were making their way to Southern California beaches for the holiday. The Los Angeles Herald reported on July 4, 1910, that the Pacific Electric Railway had the biggest day its company had known, with a reported 30,000 heading to Long Beach and thousands more to Newport Beach, Balboa Beach, and Huntington Beach.

Ten days after the Independence Day holiday in 1910, hundreds more would arrive for the Methodist “tent city” at Huntington Beach with a reported 300 canvas tents going up near 11th Street for a July 14 opening. Six years after Henry Huntington brought the Pacific Electric Railway to town in 1904, the township and nearby Wintersburg Village were bustling.

Horse racing on an unpaved Ocean Avenue (Pacific Coast Highway) at Huntington Beach was part of the day’s events on the morning of July 4, 1910. The race ended at Main Street, with the winner chosen from the two best heats out of three. (City of Huntington Beach archives)

A “committee of enterprising citizens” organized the 1910 July 4 holiday and received an offer by the Wintersburg Japanese Association (Smeltzer) to again provide the fireworks for Independence Day at no cost to the community and at an estimated value of $200, an equivalent of over $5,000 in 2018.

The Huntington Beach Township reported the offer by the Wintersburg Japanese Association to provide fireworks again for Independence Day and directed an expression of thanks be sent. (“Celebration is planned,” Santa Ana Register, June 17, 1910)

The committee proudly reported “the Fourth of July will be celebrated in Huntington Beach this year in a ‘safe and sane’ way, yet in a manner that will afford amusement and entertainment to a large number of visitors who annually seek here the delightfully cool climate and refreshing ocean breezes which make this city so desirable as a summer resort.” The committee planned automobile and motorcycle races, fireworks provided by the Japanese Association, “and the usual smaller attractions.” They secured special railroad car service to Huntington Beach from the Pacific Electric Railway, anticipating a large crowd.

The fireworks provided by the Japanese association were a marvel that Orange Countians looked forward to at special events. The Santa Ana Register provided a description of the novelty, noting “the prettiest of all was a long string of the flags of all nations that presented a beautiful sight as they fluttered down to earth.” (Santa Ana Register, October 7, 1910)

The day’s events would start with the “customary Independence Day oration” by Los Angeles attorney W. H. Anderson. The Santa Ana Register advised his speech “will occupy only about 20 minutes” before the livelier activities began and encouraged everyone to arrive on time.

Crowds gathered for horse races along the beach from 10:30 am to 12:30 pm, foot race competitions at the baseball grounds for girls and boys, and a “free-for-all dash around the bases at baseball ground” followed by daylight fireworks at 1 pm (which continued through evening). In the middle of the afternoon on July 4, 1910, the City of Orange baseball team took on the home team at the baseball field in the downtown. But, before the baseball game the committee planned a greased pig race for which “an especially swift porker has been secured for the occasion and the supply of grease is large.”

A front page feature in the Santa Ana Register advised those of a “sportive or recreative nature” to head to either Huntington Beach or Newport Beach to be patriotic, economical and sensible. The Register also advised there would be no newspaper on Monday, July 4, because “all editors and printers and reporters and bookkeepers and so forth want to celebrate. And other people too—they want to celebrate. But how can they really and truly celebrate if the daily paper ‘butts in’ on them about 5 o’clock—the best part of the day...So we’ll all take a day off.” (Santa Ana Register, July 2, 1910)

As night fell and fireworks lit up the sky, the Huntington Beach concert band—which had played throughout the day—provided live music for a dance near the beach.  Music  of the day might have included “Let me Call You Sweetheart,” “Come Josephine in My Flying Machine,” and the still-popular “Chicken Reel.” This also was the year that “America the Beautiful”—an 1895 poem originally titled “Pike’s Peak” and written by Katharine Lee Bates—was first published with the music by which we know it today.

The Santa Ana Register reported on July 5, 1910, that “horse racing and day fireworks at Huntington Beach drew a large crowd. Huntington was the most bravely decorated in flags and bunting of any of the beach places, and many jolly picnic parties were in evidence.”

A postcard image, circa 1910, of the saltwater plunge near the Huntington Beach pier. Note the Pacific Electric Railway “red car” and station at left. The plunge rented bathing suits, advertised “safe surf bathing” and a bath house with hot saltwater tub baths. There was a slide into the plunge, which was divided into shallow and deep swimming areas. A bleacher area inside the plunge and an open walkway above meant swimmers were part of the tourist attraction in 1910, just as visitors watch surfers from the pier today.


1. Hansen, Debra Gold; Ryan, Mary P.; “Public Ceremony in a Private Culture: Orange County Celebrates the Fourth of July,” University of California Press, 1991.


*This article was originally published on Historic Wintersburg blog on July 2, 2018.


© 2018 Mary Urashima

California fireworks Fourth of July holidays Huntington Beach Japanese Association (Mexicali, Baja California) Southern California United States Wintersburg
About the Author

Mary Adams Urashima is an author, government affairs consultant and freelance writer living in Huntington Beach. She created to generate more awareness about the history of the Japanese in Orange County, including stories of an area in north Huntington Beach once known as the Wintersburg Village. Urashima is chairing a community effort to preserve the century-old Furuta farm and Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Mission complex, named to the “America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places” list in 2014 and designated a “National Treasure” in 2015 by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Her book, Historic Wintersburg in Huntington Beach, was released by History Press in March 2014.

Updated April 2016

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