The Fourth of July

Whether it be patriotism or simply because we get the day off from work, we, as Americans, all LOVE the fourth of July!  But, do we actually know why we celebrate?  And, just what are the fireworks for?

On July 4th in 1776, the members of the Continental Congress met in Philadelphia, adopting the final draft of the Declaration of Independence proclaiming our freedom from Great Britain- but, the version that we now know wasn’t the first.

The Declaration of Independence was penned by Thomas Jefferson and originally adopted on July 2nd; it was revised and presented in Philadelphia 2 days later. Only two people, however, actually signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4: John Hancock and Charles Thomson, secretary of Congress. Most of the others signed on August 2. One of the revisions was that Thomas Jefferson changed the wording of the Declaration of Independence from “the pursuit of property” to “the pursuit of happiness.”

Here are some other interesting factoids about this iconic celebration:

1. The oldest, continuous Independence Day celebration in the United States takes place in Bristol, Rhode Island; the July 4th Parade began there in 1785.

2. “Yankee Doodle,” considered one of the most patriotic songs in the U.S., was originally sung by British military officers (before the Revolution) as a means to mock the American “yankees” who fought with them during the French and Indian Wars.  The words were a bit different then as “the 4th of July” was not yet relevant in American history.

3. Three U.S. Presidents, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe, died on July 4th; one president, Calvin Coolidge was born on the 4th of July.  A presidential daughter, Malia Obama, was also born on July 4th.

4. In July 1776, the estimated number of people living in the U.S. was 2.5 million.  According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the population as of 7/4/16 was approximately 324,142,315 (almost 4.5% of the population of the world).

5. In 1870 Congress made Independence Day an official unpaid holiday; in 1938, it was changed to a paid federal holiday.

6. To avoid cracking it, the Liberty Bell has not been “rung” since 1846. To honor the day, every fourth of July it is symbolically tapped 13 times.

7. Ever wonder why we launch fireworks on this iconic day?  Well, it’s pretty much because that’s what John Adams (future president) wanted. In a July 3, 1776 letter to his wife, John Adams declared that the signing of the Declaration of Independence should be a “great anniversary Festival” and “solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.”  Apparently Americans agreed; a year later, Congress ordained the tradition into American folklore with a grand exhibition of fireworks, beginning and ending with 13 rockets to symbolize the 13 original colonies.

8.  The Fourth of July is (by and large) the biggest hot dog eating day in the U.S.  According to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council, an estimated 155 million hot dogs were consumed over the Holiday weekend.  The Nathan’s Hot Dog eating contest was also created on July 4th; according to legend, on July 4th 1916, four immigrants got into an argument over who was more patriotic. They decided to settle the disagreement by seeing who could eat the most hot dogs- the rest, as they say, is history.

9.  In an interesting twist of fate, The Philippines gained independence from the U.S. on July 4th as well.  The Treaty of Manilla was signed on July 4, 1946 officially separating the Philippines from the U.S.

10.  The average age of those who signed the Declaration of Independence was 45. The youngest, at age 27, was Thomas Lynch Jr of South Carolina. The oldest was Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania at age 70. Thomas Jefferson was 33.

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