3 Reasons Knee High by the 4th of July Resonates With Midwesterners

by John Amato

As a Midwesterner, the phrase “knee-high by the fourth of July” is one you’ve probably heard a hundred times. “Knee-high by the 4th of July” is an old saying used by farmers to measure the success of their crops by Independence Day.

Farmers believed that if the crop reached the height of your knee by midsummer, it meant a bountiful harvest. Because of how popular this saying is, at Jupmode, we have our very own Knee High by the 4th of July T-shirt.

Today you’ll learn:

  • Why this phrase resonates with Midwesterners
  • Origins of the phrase “knee-high by the 4th of July
  • Where you’ll likely find this phrase used
  • Whether this old adage is still relevant today

1 - It’s Nostalgic and Symbolizes an Important Day

gray T-shirt on grass with words “knee high by the 4th of July” on top of single cob of corn

It’s a Reminder of Home

We move away from home for various reasons. It could be for school, to pursue a dream, or even to seek specialized healthcare. That doesn’t mean you can’t carry a piece of home with you.

The phrase “knee-high” is one that only Midwesterners and fans of the Midwest understand. Think of it as a club with a secret password. If you’re far from home and are wearing a “knee high” T-shirt, it makes it easy for other Midwesterners to identify with you.

It’s cool when a fellow Midwesterner strikes up a conversation with you simply because they can tell, from what you’re wearing, that you’re from back home. Jupmode has a cool selection of Midwesterner apparel and gifts, including a bushel of corn shirts, making it easy for other Midwesterners to connect with you.

Additionally, our selection makes great gifts for people who aren’t necessarily from the Midwest but are fans of the region.

Offers Great Memories of Knee-High Corn Celebrations

Even though “knee-high by the 4th of July” is no longer the standard to determine whether crops will produce high yields, it’s still a memorable phrase that brings Midwesterners together.

Back then, when your corn was knee-high by the time Independence Day rolled by, it was a cause for celebration because it meant a bountiful harvest. This still holds true for older folk who continue to take the knee-high adage more seriously.

So, even though crops today are taller than knee-high, it remains a cause for celebration as a decades-old tradition.

Jupmode knee high by the 4th of July photo snippet

The Midwest Is Home to the Corn Belt

The Midwest is large, spans over 12 states, and is popular for a reason: It’s home to the Corn Belt. The Corn belt is the area in the US that has dominated corn production for the past century and a half. Altogether, the Corn Belt produces over 15 billion bushels of corn every year.

These massive figures indicate corn growing in the Corn Belt yields three times more corn than countries like Mexico! This is something Midwesterners are proud of.

Whether you’re from the Land of Lincoln (Illinois), the Great Lakes State (Michigan), the Sunflower State (Kansas), the North Star State (Minnesota), the Buckeye State (Ohio), or any of the other states that make up the Corn Belt, the knee-high adage is one Midwesterners connect to.

Coincides With Independence Day

Even if you’re not from the Midwest, you still have a reason to celebrate! The 4th of July is America’s Independence Day. So whether you have fields of healthy corn, you can still celebrate America’s independence from Great Britain in 1776.

2 - It Tells People Where You’re From

“Knee-high by the 4th of July” relates to farming, specifically corn. People likely to understand or use this phrase will be from the Midwest or corn-growing regions, including Iowa, Indiana, Illinois, Nebraska, Missouri, southern Michigan, Kansas, and Minnesota.

3 - It Has Historical Significance for Midwesterners

No one can pinpoint when farmers started using the phrase. However, there’s a possibility that it may be as old as Iowa, dating back to 1846. Early evidence depicts knee-high corn in a newspaper dating back to July 3, 1884.

The Sumner Gazette stated, “It has been considered that if corn was knee high by the Fourth of July that the crop was sure and safe”. To date, Iowa remains one of the top-producing corn states in the country. Combined with Illinois, the two states account for roughly one third of the country’s corn.

Is Knee High by the 4th of July Still Relevant Today?

dark gray T-shirt with words “lil Midwesterner” in large font

Every year, on the 4th of July, farmers celebrate Independence Day and a successful crop with the same spirit as generations before them. However, do farmers still view a knee-high crop as successful?

With today’s agricultural advancements, if your crop is knee-high by the 4th of July, it spells trouble for you. Modern technology has allowed for faster-growing corn and higher yields, allowing crops to grow taller than knee-high by late June or early July. Despite that, the popular phrase continues to stay alive among corn-growing folk in the Corn Belt.

The table below shows the differences between modern-day farming and 19th Century farming.

Modern-Day Farming 19th Century Farming
Improved agricultural technology, such as harvest automation and the use of drones Crude farming techniques such as oxen and wooden plows
Corn varieties resistant to pests and diseases, such as Luscious TSW F1 and Cameo Poor quality corn varieties susceptible to diseases, such as gray leaf spot and Northern corn leaf blight
Improved weather forecasting for accurate preparation, planting, and harvesting Relied on the four seasons to determine when to plant and harvest
Higher pest control efficiency Lack of advanced pesticides contributed to poor pest control leading to low yields

Looking at the table above, you can understand why knee-high corn is no longer considered a good crop. In the past few decades, seed companies have developed hybrid corn seeds that allow corn planting in cool weather.

Additionally, hybrid corn seeds offer the following advantages:

  • Disease and drought resistance
  • Produce plants with higher yields
  • Faster and easier to grow
  • Faster adaption to stress
  • Longer shelf life

In fact, according to the Iowa Corn Growers Association, with good growing conditions, corn should be at least 8 feet tall by Independence Day. The right growing conditions include:

  • Warm sunny weather that is anywhere between 75–86° F
  • High-quality seeds
  • Well-distributed moderate rains
  • A minimum of 120 frost-free days

Keep the Old Adage Alive in Our High-Quality Fun T-Shirts

Just because farmers no longer celebrate knee-high corn as a successful crop, it doesn’t mean you can’t keep the saying alive. It’s still a comforting thing to say from one Midwesterner to another.

Pair a “knee high by the 4th of July” T-shirt with this Ope! Denim Hat as a cool homage to this great region.

Our high-quality T-shirts and cool merchandise are a hit in the Midwest.

“Always a great experience with Jupmode! Quality shirts with awesome designs”.
- Michael L.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take for my knee high by the 4th of July shirt to arrive?

You’ll receive your shirt within 7–10 days of placing your order. We use USPS to ship your order, and it will include a tracking number. You can choose between standard, priority, or free shipping for orders over $75.

What other shirts does Jupmode sell?

We have a variety of high-quality t-shirts with fun and creative designs to show love for Toledo, Ohio, and the Midwest.

Can I get a custom-made shirt?

Yes, you can. We offer custom embroidery, screen printing, and promotional products. If you’d like to place an order or have questions, you can visit Jupmode.

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  • Comment Author: Steve Ignots

    Iowa the Land of Lincoln?!? I think not. ILLINOIS is the Land of Lincoln.

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