Celebrating 100 Years of Fourth of July at BHG

Take a look back at our best patriotic recipes, decorations, and craft ideas from the last century.

The very first issue of Better Homes & Gardens was published in July 1922, which means that in addition to celebrating America's 246th birthday, this Fourth of July we're also celebrating 100 years of BHG. To celebrate, we're taking a look back through the archives at how we've celebrated the holiday over the past century.

While today we associate Independence Day with patriotic picnics, sparklers, and a spectacular fireworks show, it hasn't always been celebrated with sparklers and fireworks. In the early years of Better Homes & Gardens, we focused on the patriotism of gardening and reassured our readers during the food shortage that resulted from World War II.

In later decades, we switched focus to the more celebratory aspects of the holiday: The 1950s and 1970s were all about entertaining a crowd, and in 1990 we debuted our American flag-theme red, white, and blue dessert inspirations.

As you prepare for this year's Independence Day celebrations, take a look back through our last 100 years of Fourth of July content. You may just find a recipe or decor idea to recreate with a modern twist.

better homes and gardens 1927

1920s: Homes of Famous Americans

In the 1920s, the pages of Better Homes & Gardens were filled with in-depth stories and informational content, so it's fitting that coverage of Independence Day was a series about the homes of famous Americans, rather than party ideas or red, white, and blue recipes. In the July 1927 issue, we dove into Colonial America with a photographic tour of a 1700s baronial mansion belonging to Sir William Johnson, who supported the Iroquois in Johnstown, New York, during a time of unrest in American history.

better homes and gardens 1930

1930s: The Garden Celebrates Independence

The early issues of Better Homes & Gardens focused heavily on garden content, and this July 1930 article is all about how the ideas featured in the pages of BHG were uniquely American. This issue was published about 15 years after victory gardening became a necessity in World War I, so Americans had just started gardening for fun again.

In honor of the Fourth of July, the piece explains how the typical front yard gardens evolved from gardens with European influence into something American. "There they grow–thousands of quiet, unpretentious little homes where the real citizens of the United States live. Each one occupies its little plot of ground, and the ordering of this ground is our national landscape architecture," the article reads. "In fact, this open front yard is peculiarly an American idea."

better homes and gardens 1941

1940s: Defense with Food

Hard-hitting news doesn't run in the pages of BHG these days, but in the 1940s it was a trusted source for information about all things food and family life. In the early forties, Britain was experiencing a food shortage as a result of World War II. In July 1941, Americans weren't planning Independence Day barbecues or fixing elaborate red, white, and blue desserts, they were concerned about the food shortage coming to the U.S. We published this article to ease the public's fears and explain what American elected officials were doing to keep food available at affordable prices.

better homes and gardens 1958

1950s: Feast for the Fourth

The July 1958 issue was all about feeding a crowd for easy summer entertaining, and our 'Feast for the Fourth' included a make-ahead cold chicken salad and meringues made from a store-bought mix for an easy dessert that could be whipped up the day before.

If you need inspiration for this year's Fourth of July bash, consider recreating these recipes, which can be found on page 88 of the July 1958 issue, available in the BHG Insiders archive.

Main Dish: Party Chicken Salad

Vegetable: Peas with Mushrooms

Sides: Firecracker Plums, Honeydew Wedges, Twist Rolls

Dessert: Strawberry Ice Cream Meringues and Pink Lemonade

better homes and gardens 1961

1960s: Steamboat Sundaes

In July 1961, we celebrated Independence Day with an American classic: Ice cream sundaes. We shared five ways to serve your sundae, including a decked-out banana split and tips on how to serve cold blocks of ice cream using a cake breaker tool. These timeless tips can be used for this year's Fourth of July celebration—just be sure to eat them before it melts!

better homes and gardens 1975

1970s: Stay-at-Home Summertime

We spent the last two Independence Days celebrating at home to follow pandemic protocols, but we were surprised to learn this wasn't the first time we've suggested celebrating at home. In July 1975, we published an article about how to have your big summer bash at home in your backyard. And while there was no talk of masks or social distancing, we included many of the same tips we've been using since 2020, including updating your outdoor furniture, focusing on landscaping, and inviting guests over for a good time outdoors.

better homes and gardens 1984

1980s: Americans at Home

Our 1984 Americans at Home column was all about celebrating Independence Day through the lens of another culture. We gave readers an inside look into the home of Mary Limbird, who used her Greek background to influence the annual Fourth of July picnic. Her traditional Greek recipes—available on page 104 of the July 1984 issue—like Fasolia Salad and phyllo pastries were Fourth of July staples the neighbors looked forward to each year.

better homes and gardens 1998

1990s: Star-Spangled Desserts

The 90s ushered in an important era of holidays at BHG: Red, white, and blue desserts. While today we have dozens of American flag-themed treats, this star-patterned tart was the first one published in our magazine. Use this recipe to re-create this classic dessert for this year's Fourth of July gathering.

better homes and gardens 2003

2000s: Red, White, and Blue Picnic

One thing missing from the early pages of BHG is patriotic decorating–but the amount of DIY decor and crafts in the early 2000s more than makes up for lost time. This 2003 spread of picnic ideas features enough red, white, and blue decorations to decorate the entire neighborhood potluck (and more). And while the ideas are fairly dated now, you can still use the main ideas (like patterned name tags and cut-out star banners) to put a modern spin on this year's Fourth of July spread.

better homes and gardens 2018

2010s: Happy Birthday America

Since we're celebrating the 100th birthday of BHG, it's fitting to include the 'Happy Birthday America' themed party we threw in 2018. These ideas included a confetti cake, birthday streamers, and DIY party crackers–all in red, white, and blue, of course. To throw your own patriotic bash, you can find all of our birthday-themed DIY ideas (and more!) in this collection.

better homes and gardens 2021

2020s: Elevate the Everyday

Our 2020 coverage focused on hosting a Fourth of July bash that's "big on spirit and low on stress," with simple ideas to recreate for any size gathering. Our stars and stripes ice cubes (made with pureed raspberries, blackberries, and coconut milk) were an instant hit, and our readers loved the simplicity of the American flag sheet pan nachos and melon stack skewers. You can find all the recipes from the July 2021 issue on our site.

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