About Mapping the Fourth of July


Mapping the Fourth of July is a crowdsourced digital archive of primary sources that reveal how Americans celebrated July 4 during the Civil War era. It will bring together thousands of documents, ranging from newspaper articles and speeches to private letters and diaries. These sources reveal how a wide range of Americans — northern and southern, white and black, male and female, Democrat and Republican, immigrant and native born — all used the Fourth to articulate their deepest beliefs about American identity during the great crisis of the Civil War.

Who can participate

We invite anyone interested in Civil War era history to explore the site. As well as simply learning more about how July 4 was celebrated in your hometown, you can also contribute to the project by transcribing, tagging, connecting, and discussing different sources and themes.

History education

While Mapping the Fourth can be used by anyone, it is especially useful as a teaching tool. Whether you teach at the college or high school level, your students will jump at the chance to learn about how a previous generation of Americans celebrated the Fourth. (Yes, there were fireworks!) These are engaging documents that open up big themes: North-South differences; the causes and consequences of the Civil War; African American experiences of emancipation. On our website you’ll find standards-based assignment guidelines that make it easy to integrate it into your courses.


The site uses the Omeka content management system. Our team has created an open-source plugin, Incite, that allows users to work with Omeka databases in new ways—transcribing, tagging, connecting, and discussing. We’re making it easier than ever to become a citizen archivist! Incite will be freely available for other Omeka-based projects.


Want to read more about the history of the Fourth of July? Check out our further reading suggestions by download the list in .pdf or .docx format.

Administration and funding

Coordinated by the Virginia Center for Civil War Studies, Mapping the Fourth involves faculty, staff, and support from around Virginia Tech: the Center for Human-Computer Interaction, History, Computer Science, the School of Education, and the University Libraries. The project is funded with a “Literacy and Engagement with Historical Records” grant from the National Archives’ National Historical Publications and Records Commission.

Visualization of Collaborators (click image to enlarge):

The project team includes:

The Mapping the Fourth of July team thanks our beta users and their students for testing the site and providing valuable feedback:

We are also grateful to our distinguished advisory board members:

Final report

Questions? Please email july4.civilwar-g@vt.edu

Want to tweet your July 4 discoveries? Follow @VaTechCivilWar and use the hashtag #july4civilwar.
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