Yoni Appelbaum reports on days of yore when Salem would light massive bonfires to herald July Fourth:
For weeks, volunteers assembled materials, stacking them into a towering pyramid reaching high into the air. Fat hogsheads on the bottom supported row upon row of oily casks, topped with layers of smaller kegs. The pyramid claimed eight thousand barrels; some years, it had forty tiers. At midnight, a bundle of burning rags was run up to the top on wire pulleys, igniting the pile and announcing "that the night has turned into the morning of a new year of liberty."