Only Two Signed That Day
Most people definitely don’t know that most of the signatures on the Declaration of Independence were gathered after July 4th. In fact, only John Hancock and Charles Thomson signed the document on July 4, 1776! Congressional delegates signed the official version on August 2, with the 56 signatures ordered by colony from north to south.
Died On The Fourth Of July
Another very strange coincidence is that two of the 56 delegates who signed the Declaration of Independence actually died on July 4. In fact, they even died the same year: in 1826. Those two men? Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, both of whom served as presidents during their lives. Jefferson and Adams were 82 and 90, respectively.
Should It Have Been July 2nd?
Not everyone wanted July 4th to be recognized as Independence Day. John Adams thought that July 2nd made more sense, as it was the day that Congress voted for independence. July 4th was the date that the declaration was actually approved, however. We think Adams makes a pretty compelling argument!
Hold The Fireworks
These days, it’s hard to imagine a July 4th without fireworks, cookouts, and fun. However, nobody actually celebrated the day for many years, as it wasn’t recognized by Congress as an official holiday until 1870. Even then, it was an unpaid holiday for employees. Congress didn’t decide to pay employees for the day until another 60 years had passed! Cheapskates.
The Liberty Bell’s Big Debut
Many would be surprised to learn that the Liberty Bell wasn’t rung on July 4th, 1776, instead making its debut on July 8th for the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence. These days, the bell is tapped 13 times every July 4th at exactly 2 p.m. in order to recognize the first 13 colonies of the United States.
George Washington, Party Animal
Whether it was an official holiday or not, many people liked to celebrate July 4th back in the day. One of the first celebrations was when George Washington had his troops given a double ration of rum on July 4th, 1778. So, you see? That settles the debate about whether it’s appropriate to have a few drinks on Independence Day for once and for all. Washington was in favor of it, after all!
The Most Patriotic Town
Bristol, Rhode Island, has celebrated Independence Day since 1785, which is part of the reason that the community is often cited as the nation’s most patriotic town. From June 14th, which is Flag Day, Bristol holds a number of community events leading up to the 4th of July Parade, which is the longest-running continuous Independence Day celebration in the United States.
Let’s Pretend The King’s Dead!
These days, we tend to lean toward fireworks and cookouts as we celebrate Independence Day, but that’s not how things have always been done. On July 4th, 1776, Americans started celebrating by holding pretend funerals for Britain’s King George III. Obviously, these Americans were prepared to fight back for their freedom.
There are no set colors for July 4th celebrations these days. Instead, we stick to the red, white, and blue of the nation’s flag. However, this wasn’t always the case. In the 19th century, for example, people wore green to commemorate Independence Day. George Washington kick-started the tradition, encouraging people to use green not only for their outfits, but to decorate buildings, too.
It’s hard to imagine American July 4th celebrations without fireworks, and plenty of them. Ironically enough, many of the fireworks that are bought and used for July 4th in America come from China. In fact, the U.S. imported $232.5 million worth of fireworks from China in 2011 alone!
Big Show At The Big Apple
Everyone argues about who has the best fireworks display for Independence Day, but there’s no argument about the biggest: the Macy’s Fourth of July Fireworks Show. The show launches over 40,000 shells of up to ten inches in diameter. The largest shells weigh 35 pounds! The show first debuted in 1958, but not on July 4th! That year, it was on July 1st, instead.
What, No Hot Dogs?
Nowadays, you’re likely to find Americans dining on burgers, brats, and hot dogs on July 4th, but as with most traditions, this wasn’t always the case. In fact, early Americans preferred turtle soup on Independence Day, as it was considered to be quite the summertime treat back then. Before long, pig roasts took over, which in turn led to cookouts and barbecues like we have today.
Everyone’s Invited To The Cookout
How many hot dogs do you think Americans consume on July 4th? Try at least 150 million! That many hot dogs could be lined up to go from Washington, D.C., to Los Angeles more than five times. U.S. households spend about $7 billion on food for their July 4th celebrations, including $342 million on beer! Americans don’t just eat hot dogs, either; about 750 million pounds of chicken are consumed, too.
Hot Dog Eating Contests
Another big July 4th tradition is the Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest, which pits competitive eaters against one another to see who can eat the most hot dogs with buns in just ten minutes. Most people don’t know that this contest has been going since 1916! Joey Chestnut ate 72 hot dogs in 2017 to win the contest, which is now attended by as many as 50,000 people each year!
Drinking And Singing
Although people today associate the melody of the Star-Spangled Banner with that song and that song only, Francis Scott Key did not write the song without a little inspiration. He got the melody from an English song that was written in praise of wine! As many know, Key wrote the anthem during the Battle of Baltimore in the War of 1812.
No Young People Allowed
It may seem like the Declaration of Independence was a pretty radical move at the time, and it was, but most of the people signing it were not young and adventurous. In fact, the average age of signees was about 45 years old, with Thomas Lynch of South Carolina the youngest of all (he was in his late 20s). Thomas Jefferson was 33 years old and Benjamin Franklin was the oldest person to sign, as he was 70.
Party At The White House
The first July 4th celebration to be held at the White House took place in 1801 under President Thomas Jefferson. He held a party at the President’s Park for regular citizens, with food, drinks, booths, and games for everyone to enjoy. Meanwhile, the White House itself hosted diplomats, military officers, and other officials, including Cherokee chiefs.
Inspiring Other Nations
Independence Day is celebrated in the U.S. like no other, but that doesn’t mean other nations don’t recognize the day at all. Denmark, Portugal, Sweden, and Norway all host various celebrations due to how many of their citizens have called America home (and vice versa). Meanwhile, nations such as France, Greece, Poland, and others have referred to the Declaration of Independence while establishing their own freedom.
How They Celebrate In The Philippines
The United States purchased the Philippines for $20 million in 1898 and claimed it as its own territory on July 4th, 1902. However, nearly 50 years later, the U.S. gave the Philippines back its freedom. July 4th in the Philippines is celebrated either as Philippine Republic Day or Filipino-American Friendship Day.
Fitting All The Stars In
When Alaska and Hawaii were going to become states in 1958, no one was sure how to adjust the flag accordingly. An Ohio history teacher assigned her students to the task, and Robert G. Heft designed a flag with alternating rows of five and six stars. Heft sent the design to President Eisenhower, who actually decided to use it. What grade did Heft get from his teacher? Only a B-!