Today is America’s 245th birthday, and it is also known as Independence Day. Did you know that it was actually on July 2, 1776, that the Continental Congress voted in favor of declaring independence from Great Britain? The Declaration of Independence was officially adopted two days later on July 4, 1776, and marked by the ringing of the Liberty Bell at Independence Hall in Philadelphia. This, along with 23 other facts regarding the 4th of July, comes from an article published on June 29, 2021, titled, “What’s the History of July 4th? Plus 23 Surprising 4th of July Facts,” by Lindsay Lowe, freelance writer and editor based in Oxford, U.K. Here is a list of those facts:
4th of July Facts
1. The Declaration of Independence was not signed on July 4, 1776. That’s actually the day it was formally adopted by the Continental Congress, but it wasn’t signed by most signatories until August.
2. American typically eat 150 million hot dogs on Independence Day, “enough to stretch from D.C. to L.A. more than five times,” according to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council.
3. Three presidents have died on July 4: Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and James Monroe.
4. John Adams believed that American independence should be celebrated on July 2, as that’s the actual day the Continental Congress voted for independence in 1776.
6. Massachusetts became the first state to make the 4th of July an official state holiday in 1781.
7. President Zachary Taylor died in 1850 after eating spoiled fruit at a July 4 celebration.
8. The famed Macy’s fireworks show in New York City uses more than 75,000 fireworks shells and costs about $6 million.
9. Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest is held annually on July 4. In 2018, champion Joey Chestnut ate 74 hot dogs with buns in just 10 minutes.
10. Independence Day became a federal holiday in 1870.
11. As of 2016, July 4 was the number one holiday for beer sales in the U.S., according to the National Beer Wholesalers Association.
13. Every July 4, descendants of the signers of the Declaration of Independence tap the Liberty Bell 13 times in honor of the original 13 colonies.
14. Eating salmon is a July 4 tradition in parts of New England.
15. Small towns in the U.S. typically spend between $8,000 and $15,000 on their fireworks displays.
16. President Calvin Coolidge was born on July 4, 1872.
17. About 16,000 July 4 fireworks displays happen around the country each year, according to the American Pyrotechnics Association.
20. The U.S. Flag Code offers guidelines for flying the flag on July 4, and every day.
21. John Hancock has the largest signature on the Declaration of Independence.
22. The first July 4 celebration took place at the White House on 1801, hosted by Thomas Jefferson.
“The Star Spangled Banner” is the national anthem of the United States of America, and it was penned by Francis Scott Key, a Washington lawyer and U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, on September 14, 1814. The following background information is taken from History.com:
On September 14, 1814, Francis Scott Key pens a poem which is later set to music and in 1931 becomes America’s national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The poem, originally titled “The Defence of Fort M’Henry,” was written after Key witnessed the Maryland fort being bombarded by the British during the War of 1812. Key was inspired by the sight of a lone U.S. flag still flying over Fort McHenry at daybreak, as reflected in the now-famous words of the “Star-Spangled Banner”: “And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air, Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.”
Francis Scott Key was born on August 1, 1779, at Terra Rubra, his family’s estate in Frederick County (now Carroll County), Maryland. He became a successful lawyer in Maryland and Washington, D.C., and was later appointed U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia.
On June 18, 1812, America declared war on Great Britain after a series of trade disagreements. In August 1814, British troops invaded Washington, D.C., and burned the White House, Capitol Building and Library of Congress. Their next target was Baltimore.
After one of Key’s friends, Dr. William Beanes, was taken prisoner by the British, Key went to Baltimore, located the ship where Beanes was being held and negotiated his release. However, Key and Beanes weren’t allowed to leave until after the British bombardment of Fort McHenry. Key watched the bombing campaign unfold from aboard a ship located about eight miles away. After a day, the British were unable to destroy the fort and gave up. Key was relieved to see the American flag still flying over Fort McHenry and quickly penned a few lines in tribute to what he had witnessed.
The poem was printed in newspapers and eventually set to the music of a popular English drinking tune called “To Anacreon in Heaven” by composer John Stafford Smith. People began referring to the song as “The Star-Spangled Banner” and in 1916 President Woodrow Wilson announced that it should be played at all official events. It was adopted as the national anthem on March 3, 1931.
Francis Scott Key died of pleurisy on January 11, 1843. (Quote source here.)
The following information is a brief history on the 4th of July taken from History.com:
A History of Independence Day
When the initial battles in the Revolutionary War broke out in April 1775, few colonists desired complete independence from Great Britain, and those who did were considered radical.
By the middle of the following year, however, many more colonists had come to favor independence, thanks to growing hostility against Britain and the spread of revolutionary sentiments such as those expressed in the bestselling pamphlet “Common Sense,” published by Thomas Paine in early 1776.
On June 7, when the Continental Congress met at the Pennsylvania State House (later Independence Hall) in Philadelphia, the Virginia delegate Richard Henry Lee introduced a motion calling for the colonies’ independence.
Amid heated debate, Congress postponed the vote on Lee’s resolution, but appointed a five-man committee—including Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, John Adams of Massachusetts, Roger Sherman of Connecticut, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania and Robert R. Livingston of New York—to draft a formal statement justifying the break with Great Britain.
On July 2nd, the Continental Congress voted in favor of Lee’s resolution for independence in a near-unanimous vote (the New York delegation abstained, but later voted affirmatively). On that day, John Adams wrote to his wife Abigail that July 2 “will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival” and that the celebration should include “Pomp and Parade…Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other.”
On July 4th, the Continental Congress formally adopted the Declaration of Independence, which had been written largely by Jefferson. Though the vote for actual independence took place on July 2nd, from then on the 4th became the day that was celebrated as the birth of American independence.
Early Fourth of July Celebrations
In the pre-Revolutionary years, colonists had held annual celebrations of the king’s birthday, which traditionally included the ringing of bells, bonfires, processions and speechmaking. By contrast, during the summer of 1776 some colonists celebrated the birth of independence by holding mock funerals for King George III as a way of symbolizing the end of the monarchy’s hold on America and the triumph of liberty.
Festivities including concerts, bonfires, parades and the firing of cannons and muskets usually accompanied the first public readings of the Declaration of Independence, beginning immediately after its adoption. Philadelphia held the first annual commemoration of independence on July 4, 1777, while Congress was still occupied with the ongoing war.
George Washington issued double rations of rum to all his soldiers to mark the anniversary of independence in 1778, and in 1781, several months before the key American victory at the Battle of Yorktown, Massachusetts became the first state to make July 4th an official state holiday.
After the Revolutionary War, Americans continued to commemorate Independence Day every year, in celebrations that allowed the new nation’s emerging political leaders to address citizens and create a feeling of unity. By the last decade of the 18th century, the two major political parties—the Federalist Party and Democratic-Republicans—that had arisen began holding separate Fourth of July celebrations in many large cities.
Fourth of July Fireworks
The first fireworks were used as early as 200 BC. The tradition of setting off fireworks on the 4 of July began in Philadelphia on July 4, 1777, during the first organized celebration of Independence Day. Ship’s cannon fired a 13-gun salute in honor of the 13 colonies. The Pennsylvania Evening Post reported: “at night there was a grand exhibition of fireworks (which began and concluded with thirteen rockets) on the Commons, and the city was beautifully illuminated.” That same night, the Sons of Liberty set off fireworks over Boston Common.
Fourth of July Becomes a Federal Holiday
The tradition of patriotic celebration became even more widespread after the War of 1812, in which the United States again faced Great Britain. In 1870, the U.S. Congress made July 4th a federal holiday; in 1941, the provision was expanded to grant a paid holiday to all federal employees.
Over the years, the political importance of the holiday would decline, but Independence Day remained an important national holiday and a symbol of patriotism.
Falling in mid-summer, the Fourth of July has since the late 19th century become a major focus of leisure activities and a common occasion for family get-togethers, often involving fireworks and outdoor barbecues. The most common symbol of the holiday is the American flag, and a common musical accompaniment is “The Star-Spangled Banner,” the national anthem of the United States. (Quote source here.)
I hope you’ve enjoyed these facts and brief history regarding the birth of America on July 4, 1776. I’ll end this post with two lines from the lyrics of the first verse in our national anthem, “The Star Spangled-Banner”–O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave…
O’er the land of the free . . .
And the home . . .
Of the brave . . . .
YouTube Video: U.S. National Anthem “The Star-Spangled Banner” sung by Whitney Houston (audio recorded live at Super Bowl XXV):