As we look forward to a long, fun-filled July 4 holiday weekend this year, let’s not forget that some very courageous people stepped up on this day to declare their country’s independence from tyrannical rule. In doing so, they together stated:
“…We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to affect their Safety and Happiness…”
(Declaration of Independence, https://www.archives.gov/founding-docs/declaration-transcript)
Following five years of brutal warfare that ended in October 1781, that declaration became reality when Great Britain formally recognized the United States of America’s independence with the Treaty of Paris on September 3, 1783. Let’s look at 13 interesting facts about July 4 and its history!
America began as 13 British colonies
These colonies became the original 13 states and included Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina and Virginia.
July 4 should be celebrated July 2!
By near unanimous vote, the Declaration of Independence was formally dated and officially voted on by the Continental Congress on July 2, 1776. John Adams thought that was the day to be celebrated and actually refused to participate in July 4 celebrations in following years! After the vote, it took another two days to agree on the final draft of the Declaration of Independence. Only John Hancock and Charles Thompson actually signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4. The rest of the Continental Congress had left town and came back to Philadelphia and signed on August 2, 1776 to make it official!
Freedom is Popular!
When the Declaration was signed, the USA had a resident population of around 2.5 million – today, the US population is estimated at almost 333,000,000. Put another way, the US is 133 times larger than 1776!
What is the mystery text on the back of the Declaration of Independence?
Sorry “National Treasure” and Nicolas Cage fans – no map and nothing mysterious! Upside-down and across the bottom of the signed document are the words “Original Declaration of Independence dated 4th July 1776”. Why? No one really knows but it is thought it may have been a simple label to identify it as it was moved frequently during the Revolutionary War.
Independence Day became a federal holiday in 1870
The Fourth of July became an unpaid federal holiday in 1870—nearly 100 years after it was founded. Congress made it a paid holiday for federal employees in 1941, and it remains so to this day.
Traditional “Ringing” of the Liberty Bell
Re-cast in 1751 in Philadelphia from the failed first bell (cast in London), the Liberty Bell would ring to announce meetings of lawmakers and call townspeople together. Over time, a thin crack developed and, in an 1846 repair attempt, metal workers widened the crack to halt its spread and restore the tone of the bell. However, this “stop drilling” technique was unsuccessful as another fissure developed which silenced the bell forever.
However, every Fourth of July, at 2 p.m. Eastern time, descendants of Declaration signers symbolically tap the Liberty Bell 13 times while bells across the nation also ring 13 times in honor of the patriots from the original 13 states!
July 4 Picnics!
Well, maybe “pig-outs” would be more accurate! According to the National Retail Federation, Americans buy almost $8 BILLION worth of beef, hot dogs and sausages! That means we are eating an average of $80 worth of food per person! Methinks that qualifies as “pig-out!” One of those favorite foods is the hot dog with over 150 million dogs eaten on the 4th. And since 1972, the Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest has been held in Coney Island, NY for the right to hold the “Mustard Belt”. Contestants must eat as many hot dogs as possible in 10 minutes. Joey Chestnut is a 14-time champion and holds the record of 76 dogs eaten (set in 2021 and equates to over 7 ½ hot dogs per minute!). The women’s record-holder is Miko Sudo with 48.5 dogs eaten in 2020! How is YOUR stomach feeling right now?!
Pour me another one, please?
All that eating makes one even more thirsty! According to WalletHub, it was estimated in 2018 that Americans spent about $1.56 billion on beer ($1.0 billion) and wine ($568 million). That makes July 4 #1 in beer drinking days topping Memorial Day, Labor Day and even the Super Bowl! Perhaps George Washington saw the handwriting on the wall as he gave his soldiers double portions of rum on July 4, 1778!
And what would 4th of July be without fireworks? Boston and Philadelphia held the first fireworks displays back in 1777. The Continental Congress authorized them in Philadelphia and in Boston, Col. Thomas Craft, an integral member of the Sons of Liberty and active accomplice in the Boston Tea Party, shot off a fireworks display in the Boston Common. According to the American Pyrotechnics Association, Americans spent almost $2 billion in fireworks in 2020. Interestingly, almost 99% of the fireworks come from China.
On this day in history…
In 1826, Declaration of Independence signers and Presidents John Adams and Thomas Jefferson died within 5 hours of each other. Another President, James Monroe, died on this day in 1831. Famous birthdays include Ulysses S. Grant (US General in Civil War and 18th President), Calvin Coolidge (30th President), Neil Simon (American playwright), George Steinbrenner (businessman and owner of New York Yankees baseball team) and Bill Withers (American singer-songwriter).
On the Fourth of July in 1795, Paul Revere and Gov. Sam Adams laid the cornerstone for the Massachusetts State House in Boston. They also buried a copper time capsule. It contained a pine tree shilling coin from 1652, a copper medal engraved with an image of George Washington, several newspapers and a silver plate likely engraved by Paul Revere (he was one of the finest silversmiths in America!). Long-forgotten, the time capsule was discovered by workers doing building cornerstone repairs in 2014. After calling in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts experts, they were able to carefully extricate the find after six grueling hours in the December cold!
Music and tradition
John Philip Sousa composed “Stars and Stripes Forever” on a cruise ship vacation to Europe in December 1896. In 1987, an act of Congress made it the National March of the United States of America. Its popularity was cemented as a part of one of the oldest and biggest July 4 celebrations in the country in Boston, MA. Since shortly after it was composed, the Boston Pops Orchestra has played Stars and Stripes Forever at the end of its concerts beginning in 1899. Arthur Fiedler included it in the first Independence Day Pops concert on the Esplanade in 1929. The Pops has played it ever since, the flag always dropping in the final moments of the piece, complete with an exciting display of fireworks! As many as 500,000 people show up for the concert. (https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=july+4+stars+and+stripes+forever+boston+pops&&view=detail&mid=50F109DF806FAB66FF6A50F109DF806FAB66FF6A&&FORM=VDRVRV)
Isn’t it ironic?
Another country also celebrates July 4 as their Independence Day! On July 4, 1946, the Treaty of Manila was signed in the Philippines giving them independence from… the United States of America! In 1898, at the end of the Philippine-American war, America gained control over the Philippines after helping them defeat Spain. The US paid Spain $20 million as a part of the Treaty of Paris which ended the Spanish Empire and the Philippines came under US control. In the years following, the US attempted to help the Philippines set up their government and, in 1935, the Tyding-McDuffie Act was passed establishing a 10-year transition period for Philippine independence. World War II interrupted that process as the Japanese invaded the Philippines in 1941 and occupied them until the Japanese surrender in 1945. The following year, in compliance with the Tyding-McDuffie Act, the United States officially recognized Philippine independence by signing the Treaty of Manila.
Enjoy your 4th of July holiday weekend, be safe with your fireworks and impress your family and friends with these Independence Day trivia tidbits!