Celebrating America’s Independence

This year, the Fourth of July fell on a Sunday, and the observed paid holiday was July 5. My family and I had a big barbecue and set off some fireworks at home to celebrate. We also a take a few minutes to reflect on our heritage, and our country. And take some time to read the Declaration of Independence. The Fourth of July has a long and rich history in the U.S., with most towns having celebrations and offering speeches and other patriotic displays. In honor of the Fourth of July, here are some facts about the celebration:

Origin of the Fourth of July

It seems fairly obvious that the origin of the Fourth of July was the date the Declaration of Independence was adopted. However, the Second Continental Congress actually voted to accept the Declaration on July 2. It took some time to get the signing accomplished. and the date listed on the Declaration is July 4th, so that was the day that became famous, even though the document has been approved two days previously in a closed session of the Congress — and some historians think that the real signing should have been listed as at the beginning of August in 1776. The last signer, Thomas McKean, didn’t put his name to the document until January of 1777.

As early as 1777 patriots were celebrating the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Bristol, Rhode Island has the distinction as the home of the longest continuously running celebration connected to the Declaration of Independence. Bristol’s celebrations started in 1777 with a firing of 13 gunshots at morning and again at evening, to mark the anniversary. Bristol’s “official” Fourth of July celebrations have been held each year since 1785, and the festivities run for weeks before the main parade (held July 5 this year) is held, and the Freedom Festival wraps it all up in August.

Massachusetts had the first state legislature to mark July 4 as a state holiday and celebration in 1781. Independence Day was made an unpaid holiday in 1870 for employees of the federal government. In 1938, Independence Day was changed to a paid federal holiday.

Facts About Independence Day

Independence Day is a big deal around the country. With everyone ready to celebrate and show their patriotism, it is little wonder that we spent $3 million importing flags in 2010. Here are some other tidbits about the Fourth of July:

  • The Erie Canal’s groundbreaking was designed to coincide with July 4th celebrations.
  • Thomas Jefferson and John Adams both died on July 4th, 1826. They were both signatories to the Declaration of Independence, architects of the U.S. government, and presidents.
  • James Monroe died on July 4th, 1831. (He was the 5th president of the U.S.)
  • Lewis and Clark celebrated the Fourth of July in 1805 — the first celebration to be held west of the Mississippi.
  • The actual signers of the Declaration of Independence were not made public until months later, for their protection. With public names, they would have been targets for British looking for traitors. Indeed, if the U.S. hadn’t gained its independence a lot of the men we honor as patriots would have hanged for treason.

Sources for this post include USHistory.org, Bristol Rhode Island’s Fourth of July Celebration, USA.gov, Wikipedia, and Home of Heroes.

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