15 Fun Facts About the Fourth of July
For many, the 4th of July is an excuse to relax in the sun, toss back a few drinks, and watch fireworks with their family and friends, but the history of Independence Day is much richer and more exciting than one might believe.
Here are 15 fun facts about the U.S. birthday that might surprise family and friends.
1. We Didn't Actually Declare Independence on the 4th of July
One of the greatest misconceptions of the 4th of July lies in the name and date. It is widely believed that America declared their independence from Britain on July 4, 1776. However, the official vote actually took place two days before and the “Declaration” was published in papers on July 4.
2. The Designer of the 50-Star Flag Lived in Lancaster, Ohio
In 1958, a history teacher assigned a class assignment to redesign the national flag as both Alaska and Hawaii neared statehood.
Robert G. Heft, who was 16 at the time, designed a new flag using the old 48-star flag and $2.87 worth of blue cloth and white iron-on material. His design earned him a B-minus to which he challenged by sending it to Washington D.C. to be considered by President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
According to his obituary, Heft was one of thousands to submit a flag design but he was the only person who actually stitched together a flag and shipped it to D.C.
Once the flag was selected, Heft's grade was rightfully changed to an A. His design became the official flag in 1960.
3. Americans Will Enjoy 150 Million Hot Dogs During the 4th
According to the National Sausage and Hot Dog Council (NHDSC), Americans are expected to eat 150 million hot dogs over the July 4th holiday. This is part of an estimated 7 billion that are expected to be eaten during the summer season from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
4. Only Two Men Signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776
5. There is Something Written on the Back of the Declaration of Independence
. and no, it isn't a treasure map written in invisible ink.
According to the History Channel, a simple message is written upside-down across the bottom of the signed document that reads, "Original Declaration of Independence dated 4th July 1776."
According to the same article, no one knows who wrote this or when, but it was believed to have been added as a label during the years of the Revolutionary War when parchment was frequently rolled up for transport.
6. One Signed Later Recanted the Declaration of Independence
Richard Stockton, a lawyer from New Jersey, became the only signer of the Declaration of Independence to recant his support of the revolution after being captured by the British in November 1776 and thrown in jail. After years of abusive treatment, and his recanting of loyalties, Stockton was released to find all of his property destroyed or stolen by the British. His library, one of the finest in the colonies, was burned to the ground.
7. The Average Age of The Signers Was 45 Years
Of the 56 signers, the youngest signers, Thomas Lynch Jr. and Edward Rutledge of South Carolina, were only 26. However, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania was the oldest signer at 70 years old.
8. The Declaration of Independence Was Written on a Laptop
. Okay, not a modern laptop, but still. Thomas Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence on a writing desk that could fit over one's lap. This device was referred to at the time as a "laptop."
9. Men Love Fireworks. $1 Billion Worth
According to the American Pyrotechnics Association, Americans spend more than $1 billion on fireworks each year. Out of this, only 10% of firework displays are set off professionally, which probably accounts for the estimated 12,900 firework-related emergency room visits across the country .
According to Fortune Magazine, of those injuries occurring between June and July, almost 70% were experienced by men.
10. Bottoms Up With 2x the Rum
On the second anniversary of Independence Day in 1778, American troops were fighting the American Revolutionary War. During this time, George Washington ordered a double ration of rum for American soldiers to celebrate the holiday with.
11. Fireworks = An American Tradition Dating Back to 1777
Fireworks date back as a tradition of Independence Day as early as the first anniversary in 1777.
John Adams wrote in a letter to his wife, Abigail, that he wanted Independence Day to be celebrated with pomp, parade, shows, and "Illuminations." This original letter was written when Adams presumed that Independence Day would be celebrated on July 2.
12. A Much Smaller Start
Although an official national census was not completed until 1790, the U.S. Census Bureau estimates that there were only about 2.5 million people living in America in 1776 when the Declaration of Independence was signed.
As of 2017, it has grown to become home to 325.7 million people.
13. Wearing Old Glory Violates The U.S. Flag Code
How many of you own a flag t-shirt, beach towel, shorts, headband, or any other item that is representative of the U.S. flag? Turns out that you're in violation of the U.S. Flag Code.
The U.S. Flag Code states that you are in violation if you sell or display any “article of merchandise . . . upon which shall have been printed, painted, attached, or otherwise placed a representation of [the flag. in order to] advertise, call attention to, decorate, mark, or distinguish the article or substance on which so placed.”
That being said, in this instance, the Flag Code is not enforced or even enforceable, so don't worry - you won't get arrested by the Flag Police.
14. Bizarre 50th Anniversary
Thomas Jefferson, 82, and John Adams, 90, both died on July 4, 1826 within five hours of each other on the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
15. A Little Late to the Parade
July 4th was not deemed a federal holiday until 1870, nearly 100 years after the nation was founded.
Now that you are armed with these 15 fun facts, go forth and enjoy your barbecue. Happy 4th of July from Hocking College!
The 4th of July: Mythology and American History
It’s the 4th of July. A day of almost mythical proportions. For Americans. I got to thinking about the stories surrounding this day, a really special day in the history of the world.
Consider the facts: A small, rather weak and geographically diverse conglomeration of settlers rises up like David against a powerful giant – England, in this case – and slays it. The stuff of myth, yes.
I’ve been thinking about other myths in America’s national story. There are so many.
The Pilgrims of Plymouth, Massachusetts get first billing in histories of the United States, leaving the settlers of 1607 Jamestown, Virginia behind. There’s the Thanksgiving myth, too. Not until Sarah Josepha Hale convinced President Abraham Lincoln to declare Thanksgiving an official holiday did the day become enshrined in the national psyche.
Mythical thinking, according to experts such as Joseph Campbell and Erich Fromm, drives much of human efforts.
Politics. Literature. Art. Food.
Let’s talk for a second about food.
I’ve commented before on the mythology surrounding certain aspects of food in the American South. The same tendency appears in dialogues about French cuisine and Italian cooking. Tuscany still stands at the center of many tourists’ longing for the unsullied culinary Eden. In food circles, scholars berate writers for promulgating “fakelore,” improvable origin stories about food. Take the one about Marco Polo’s return from China as being the reason pasta took hold in Italy … .
Whole books could be written on these myths.
Food. Art. Literature. Politics.
Tear at these myths, question them, and people take umbrage.
Yet, for Americans, behind the myths of the Fourth of July there lies an inalienable truth:
…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 effect their Safety and Happiness.
Photo credit: C. Bertelsen
On July 4, 1966, the Minimum Wage March began
On July 4, 1966, the Minimum Wage March began in Rio Grande City, Texas, by the Independent Workers’ Association, a predominantly Mexican American union of farmworkers, to gain $1.25 minimum wage and be recognized as the bargaining agent. After previous strikes in the fields, the farm workers decided to take their issues to the state capital and raise public awareness of their demands for a living wage. When negotiations with state politicians failed, farmworkers continued to protest through the 1967 farming season. In September 1967, Hurricane Beulah hit the farm region, devastating crops. The union then shifted its focus to providing services to farm families.
The Fourth of July is a Black American holiday
Since the very beginning, black Americans have used the national celebration of the country’s independence on July 4 to remind white Americans that they too deserved freedom and that their lives also mattered. Celebrating this tradition of black protest is essential today as the nation grapples with policing, violence and racism in the wake of George Floyd’s death.
The signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776 was itself an act of protest. The famed signatories — Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and the members of the Second Continental Congress — understood this as they broke from British tyranny and launched a new nation.
As the ink dried on the Declaration of Independence, Adams imagined the signing would “be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival … [and] Day of Deliverance … with Pomp and Parade.” He guessed right. Since then, Americans have assembled on the holiday to reflect on what it means to be American and to commend the signatories who criticized poor governance and chose revolutionary change rather than complacency.
Black Americans have always populated the celebrations, using these moments to reimagine America as a better nation cleansed of slavery and racism. On July 4, 1801, Continental Army veteran and black luminary Lemuel Haynes spoke of American freedom alongside American slavery. From the pulpit of his Vermont church, he lauded the “generous warriors” of the Revolutionary War yet also observed how black Americans suffered after having been “subjected to slavery, by cruel white oppressors.”
In 1827, black New Yorkers celebrated with renewed enthusiasm, as the state had abolished slavery on the holiday. In Brooklyn, in Manhattan and in Albany, newly freed celebrants took to the streets proclaiming freedom. From that day forward, as historian Shane White discovered, black Americans began to see the holiday as a political moment to show their fitness for citizenship.
July Fourth also became the ideal moment to reshape the nation. Throughout the 1830s and 1840s, black Americans sparsely celebrated the day, as they were routinely shunned or attacked in public, but by the late 1840s, black abolitionists had developed genius techniques to lampoon and lament American commitments to freedom amid rampant unfreedoms and inequalities. This included celebrating independence. They understood the day of freedom festivals served as the best moment to challenge Americans, especially white Americans, to reflect on subjects too often ignored: slavery and racism.
Black abolitionists organized celebrations, mixing commonplace traditions, such as reading the Declaration of Independence to venerate the founders, with demonstrations critical of slavery and racism. They read accounts of injustices and poems. Sometimes they would even burn effigies of proslavery politicians.
Frederick Douglass joined this movement, using his newspaper, The North Star, to draw attention to these celebrations. In 1852, he famously commemorated the signing of the Declaration of Independence yet mixed cutting irony with patriotic sentiments in the hope of evoking change. “What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July?,” Douglass asked the packed hall of white abolitionists. “I answer,” he continued: It is “a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham your boasted liberty, an unholy license your national greatness, swelling vanity your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless.”
Although Douglass offered an incendiary assessment of America, before he stepped off the stage, he embraced the country as a patriot. He closed his oration venerating the Constitution as a “GLORIOUS LIBERTY DOCUMENT” and pushed for reforms to end bondage and inequality. To him, July Fourth was not merely parades, barbecues or fireworks. He feted the country he cherished while rendering plainly the injustices white America refused to see.
Throughout the 1850s, black and white abolitionists assembled each July Fourth, hoping to use their celebrations to challenge Americans to change. On July 4, 1854, the onetime enslaved New Yorker Sojourner Truth demanded white audiences reflect, a theme driving black abolitionist celebrations. She decried the ongoing injustices black Americans faced and warned a crowd of white and black celebrants that “God would yet execute his judgements [sic] upon white people for their oppression and cruelty.”
While the abolitionist calendar included celebrations of Emancipation Day and August First to mark major victories in the abolitionist movement, the famed abolitionist William Wells Brown saw the abolitionist festivals of American independence to be “the most important meetings held during the year.” Even if the country had a long way to go before it mirrored the nation they yearned to live in, Douglass, Truth and Brown believed July Fourth offered a perfect opportunity to acknowledge the flaws that needed to be eradicated.
Like the Declaration’s signatories, abolitionists appreciated that protest can be a patriotic act and part of meaningful change. They remained on the fringe of the political scene, yet their advocacy compelled many white Americans to ponder the hypocrisy of slavery in a nation committed to freedom and its future.
During the Civil War, abolitionist celebrations intensified. Confederates fought to make slavery a permanent fixture in North America, so
Thanks in part to abolitionists’ protests against slavery and racial injustice, the 1865 July Fourth celebrations were the most dramatic in history. By the summer of 1865, the Union army had defeated Confederates, and nearly four million enslaved Americans walked free. Hungry to rebuild a just America, black and white abolitionists cheered on the nation, as many defeated white Southerners refused to participate in the festivities.
In the nation’s capital, black Americans paraded through the streets and exulted America. Formerly enslaved Americans reflected on what had been achieved and hoped for a brighter tomorrow. Louis Hughes captured the significance. Hughes, his wife and his child protested bondage by fleeing their enslavers during the war. In the summer of 1865, they trudged toward freedom in Union-occupied Tennessee. “It was appropriately the 4th of July when we arrived,” Hughes reflected, “and, aside from the citizens of Memphis, hundreds of colored refugees thronged the streets. Everywhere you looked you could see soldiers. Such a day I don’t believe Memphis will ever see again.” Freedpeople and soldiers unleashed victorious huzzahs. Hughes and his family merged their rejoicing with the July Fourth elation. “Freedom, that we had so long looked for,” he said, “had come at last.”
Fourth of July
Three thousand people attended patriotic speeches held under the shade of trees on the South Lawn of the White House on July 4, 1903. Theodore Roosevelt and his family did not attend this ceremony.
President Harry S. Truman receives the gift of a firecracker from a young constituent to promote the celebration of July 4th in 1947.
National Archives and Records Administration
Fireworks above the North Portico, July 4, 1966. The Johnsons did not spend their Independence Day holidays in Washington, D.C.
White House Historical Association
President Gerald Ford attended celebrations on July 4, 1976, the bicentennial of the United States, at Valley Forge, Philadelphia, and New York Harbor. He was home that evening and joined Mrs. Ford to watch the national fireworks over the National Mall.
Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library/NARA
Guests on the South Lawn of the White House on July 4, 1980.
Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum/NARA
The Reagans enjoyed a picnic on the South Lawn for the Fourth of July in 1981.
Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum/NARA
The fireworks display over the National Mall, near the Washington Monument on July 4, 2000.
William J. Clinton Presidential Library and Museum/NARA
President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush look over the crowd assembled for a fireworks display from the Truman Balcony, July 4, 2001.
George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum/NARA
White House staff and guests enjoy the Fourth of July celebrations on the South Lawn, 2002.
George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum/NARA
President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama watch the fireworks over the National Mall from the White House on July 4, 2009.
Official White House Photo by Pete Souza
President Donald J. Trump and First Lady Melania Trump watch Fourth of July fireworks at the White House on July, 4, 2018.
Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead
For most of the nineteenth century, the annual Fourth of July reception was a great day for public celebration at the White House. Although a reception is no longer held, presidents and their families continued to host garden events, picnics, and parties on and around the American holiday.
The History Of The Fourth Of July
If John Adams had had his way, Independence Day this year would be celebrated on a Monday, providing everyone with a three-day weekend. Instead, this holiday celebrating freedom remains subject to the tyranny of the calendar, which this year dictates that Independence Day falls on Wednesday, July 4.
But July 4 was not, in fact, the date on which the Second Continental Congress voted to dissolve the bonds that connected the 13 colonies to Great Britain. Lots of momentous events have occurred on July 4, but that historic vote wasn't one of them.
If anyone could be considered an expert on American independence, it was Adams. The dyspeptic delegate from Massachusetts was the primary advocate for Richard Henry Lee's historic resolution that "these united colonies are and of a right ought to be free and independent States." The resolution was introduced on June 7, 1776. When Congress finally adopted it on July 2, Adams exulted.
"The Second Day of July 1776 will be the most memorable Epocha in the history of America," Adams wrote to his wife, Abigail, on July 3. "I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary festival. . It ought to be 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."
But, due to a technicality, Adams was off by 48 hours. Congress approved the concept of independence on July 2, but not the actual Declaration as composed by Thomas Jefferson (with help from Adams and Benjamin Franklin). The vote on that storied document occurred two days later. Thus it was on July 4, 1776, that all those copies of the Declaration went out to the world, proclaiming the truths we hold to be self-evident. The heavy lifting had been done on July 2, but July 4 would get the glory.
The first organized Fourth of July observance was celebrated one year later in Philadelphia, according to a Web site maintained by James R. Heintze, author of The Fourth of July Encyclopedia. Already, in 1777, most of the elements of future Fourths were in place: parades, parties, music, speeches, patriotic bunting and fireworks. (The music was provided by a band composed of Hessian prisoners of war, captured by George Washington's troops at the Battle of Trenton some six months earlier.)
Over the years, more Independence Day traditions accrued, including baseball games, hot dogs and ice cream. Some traditions, such as listening to speeches and reading the Declaration aloud, gradually withered.
A Brief History of the 4th of July
Have you ever wondered why we celebrate the Fourth of July or how the Fourth of July holiday came about? Many people think we celebrate the Fourth of July because it is the day we received our Independence from England. While those people are thinking along the right track that is not the entire reason that we celebrate the Fourth of July, nor is it the reason that the Fourth of July holiday came about.
Way back in the 18th century the United States was not considered the United States. In fact, what we now call states were actually called colonies. The United States was actually an extension of England. People traveled from England aboard ships to settle in America, but eventually differences in life, thought, and interests began to develop which caused a rift between Britain and America.
When the colonies were first settled they were allowed to pretty much develop freely without hardly any interface from Britain, but things abruptly changed in 1763. Britain suddenly decided that they needed to take more control over the colonies. Britain decided that the colonies needed to return revenue to the mother country and they needed to pay for the colonies defense, which was being provided by Britain. But the colonies did not agree with these new rules at all. They felt that since they were not represented in Parliament that they shouldn’t have to pay any kinds of taxes to the mother country, hence the saying “no taxation without representation”?. When Britain continued to tax, the colonies formed the First Continental Congress to persuade the British government to recognize their rights. When this didn’t work a war was declared, which is known as the American Revolution.
After the First Continental Congress failed to persuade Britain to recognize the colonies’ rights, and war was declared, things began to heat up. Many people who were both considered moderates and radicals had decided that enough was enough and that any kind of taxation without representation was considered tyranny. People such as John Adams, Samuel Adams, and Ben Franklin, as well as a group called the Sons of Liberty decided that it was time to unite all of the colonies and to stand together against Britain.
During the course of the American Revolution a second Continental Congress was formed. It is this group that adopted the final draft of the Declaration of Independence. The Declaration of Independence was drafted by John Adams, Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Robert R. Livingston, and Roger Sherman. After the first draft was written by Thomas Jefferson, it was revised by Ben Franklin, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson before it was sent to Congress for approval. All thirteen colonies stood behind the Declaration of Independence and adopted it in full on July 4, 1776.
This is where the Fourth of July holiday comes in. The Fourth of July is known as Independence Day because that is the day that the Second Continental Congress adopted the full and formal Declaration of Independence. Even though we had declared that we were independent, the American Revolution was still being fought, which meant that we were still not independent. Regardless of the ongoing war the following year, people in Philadelphia celebrated a muted Fourth of July.
While celebrations on July 4th during the American Revolution were modest, after the war ended in 1783 the Fourth of July became a holiday in many places. The celebrations included speeches, military events, parades, and fireworks. To this day the Fourth of July is the most patriotic holiday celebrated in the United States.
The Fourth of July
The Fourth of July is a poem by W.L. Garrison in 1844. This piece is about life as a slave and how we should be asking God for forgiveness for our treatment of slaves. Garrison wrote this poem as a reminder to Americans that not everyone was able to enjoy the same freedoms on what we call Independence Day. Garrison was one of the most recognized anti-slavery advocates. He was an abolitionist he believed that slavery should not exist, people shouldn’t be treated as if they are property, and slaves should be freed and sent back to Africa. He published many articles in the Liberator, including this poem. The Liberator was an anti-slavery journal where he voiced his views freely and even worked alongside Frederick Douglas, sharing his same views. This piece shows how there was a divide within the United States on whether or not slavery should be allowed. In the North, people believed that slavery was not ethical and should be abolished, while in the South, people thought of slaves as free labor and did not want slaves to be free. This divide led to the civil war.
Garrison’s poem depicts an African American that is tied to the flagpole. This propaganda used by Garrison is to make the viewer have a deeper understanding of the lack of rights of African Americans and how they can not achieve their freedoms due to the laws in the South. Slaves were treated as property. They were bought and sold and did not have any choice in what happened to them. Many were ripped from their families and were beaten and possibly even killed if they tried to run away or fight back. The top of the flagpole shows a hat of liberty. In the illustration, it is out of reach of the man tied to the pole, another bite at the fact that slaves do not have the same rights as white men. Liberty is something that African Americans can not achieve because they are not given any rights as individuals. Liberty is there, but it is out of reach for African Americans.
Many people agreed with W.L. Garrison at the time, but not many would print their views in the newspaper. White men were supposed to stick together, and African Americans were not even considered to be people at the time. They were thought not to have the same learning capacity, logistical skill, or even be able to learn basic information because of this view, they were not held in any regard as an asset to society. Due to this belief increased the anger of those who owned slaves and used them to do all the labor on their plantations.
Garrison truly believes that we can not celebrate when not all Americans are free.”Men like household goods or servile beasts, Are bought and sold, kidnapped and pirated…..We will no longer multiply our boasts Of Liberty, till All are truly free.” How can we want to celebrate the freedoms of our country when not everyone is given the same liberties or allowed to make the same choices for themselves and their families? He believes we should want to see all Americans be free, and we should not take advantage of others. Garrison is very blunt in his word choice that these people are not here by choice. They are bought, sold, and kidnapped. He also very abruptly adds that we should not boast civil liberties when all can not enjoy these freedoms and that until all are free, we should not consider our country a place of the freedmen.
The Declaration of Independence was signed by 56 men representing the 13 colonies. The moment marked the beginning of all-out war against the British. The American Revolutionary War is said to have started in 1775, however. The Declaration was signed more than two years after Boston officials refused to return three shiploads of taxed tea to Britain, fueling colonists to dump the tea into the harbor in what became the infamous Boston Tea Party.
(Shown above, the iconic 1846 lithograph by Nathaniel Currier entitled "The Destruction of Tea at Boston Harbor.")