While Redwood City’s annual 4th of July Celebration has been canceled due to COVID-19, you can still join the San Mateo County History Museum online for An Old-Fashioned Fourth!

Parade gatherers in period clothing and a vintage care holding a sign for the San Mateo County History Museum
A young girl making handmade ice cream at an Old Fashioned Fourth at the San Mateo County History Museum

We All Scream for Ice Cream

This recipe for Strawberry Ice Cream comes from the May 1898 edition of the Ladies Home Journal. We omit the strawberries when making this at the museum, but feel free to include them! This recipe is for use with a double boiler and an ice cream maker, however after this recipe there are links to ice cream recipes using alternate methods.

Step One: Make the base

This can be done a day or two in advance. Instructions below are for a double batch. To make one batch, halve the recipe.

  • 2 pints of cream (same as 4 cups of cream) + 2 pints of cream for later
  • 2 cups of sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of vanilla extract
  • large plastic containers to put the bases in
  • rock salt
  • ice

Put cream in a double boiler. Add sugar and vanilla. Stir consistently until hot. Divide mixture evenly between two containers. Put in refrigerator when cooled.

Step Two: Make the ice cream

  • Add another pint of cream to each base. (So there will be 2 pints in each container total.)
  • Place the mixture in the inner section of the ice cream maker. Place layers of ice and rock salt are in the outer area. Make sure to use plenty of rock salt.
  • Crank (or mix if you have an electric one) consistently for about 30 minutes, adding more ice and rock salt as needed.
  • When it becomes difficult to turn the crank, check the ice cream. When done, it will be a little firmer than soft serve ice cream. Stir in the strawberries (sliced or mashed) if you want to include them.
  • At this point it is ok to serve with your favorite toppings. If you desire a firm consistency, place in the freezer for another 1/2 hour.
A hand holdi

Crafts: Whirligig


Victorian craft books have many suggestions for Fourth of July activities. Many favorite Fourth of July activities from the Victorian period involve making things that could fly through the air, from whirligigs to miniature parachutes and fireworks

Supplies Needed:

  • Template (works better if printed on cardstock, but regular paper is fine)
  • Scissors
  • Crayons (or colored pencils, markers or stamps)
  • a penny (or something of similar size/weight – a dime would also work)
  • piece of tape


  1. Decorate the circle on both sides.
  2. Cut out the circle along the solid lines.
  3. Then, follow the dotted lines to cut inside the circle.
  4. Tape a penny to the bottom of the center section.
  5. Drop (not throw) the whirligig and watch it fly.

Crafts: Flag


The 38-star American flag (also known as the Centennial flag) was the American national flag from 1877 to 1890. The flag featured 38 stars in the top left corner which represented the 38 states of America, as opposed to modern-day American national flags which feature 50 stars for the country’s 50 current states.

Supplies Needed:

  • Template (regular paper is fine)
  • glue, glue stick or double sided tape
  • a bbq skewer, popsicle stick or something of similar size/shape


  1. There are three rows of flags – one backwards, one right side. Each row equals one flag.
  2. In each row, cut around both flags (do not cut in the middle!).
  3. Turn the flag over to the white side. Place a stick in the middle between the two flags.
  4. Glue/tape the back of the flag. Press both sides together to make sure you have a tight seal (especially around the stick).
  5. Wave your flag!

Game: Progressive Mining


Victorian craft books had many suggestions of games to play at Fourth of July parties. Progressive Mining was a party game played with a pot, sand or seed, wands, and a miniature American flag.

Supplies Needed:

  • 1880s flag (see craft above)
  • medium sized planting pot, or container of similar size that is your “mine”
  • birdseed (or something of similar size and texture, like sand, rice, lentils, sugar or salt)
  • thick paper to make the wands (or use a 1/2 teaspoon or something of similar size)
  • There are three rows of flags – one backwards, one right side. Each row equals one flag.


  1. To create the ‘wand’. Take the paper and cut pieces roughly an inch wide by 5 inches long (one piece for each person playing). Fold each piece in half long wise. Alternatively, people can share the 1/2 teaspoon.
  2. Fill your container with the birdseed or other material.
  3. Stick your 1880s flag in the middle. Make sure the stick is at least halfway in so it is steady.
  4. Take turns removing a little seed from the mine’ with the wands.
  5. Keep going until the flag is knocked over. The first person to knock the flag over loses.