Happy 4th of July! 242 years ago the Continental Congress approved the Declaration of Independence declaring America’s sovereignty. Here are some Independence Day fun facts, history and trivia.
The day before the signing of the Declaration, John Adams wrote to his wife, Abigail: “I am apt to believe that [the signing of the Declaration] will be celebrated, by succeeding generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. 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. You will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not. I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will tryumph in that Days Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not.”
“All that I have, and all that I am and all that I hope to be in life I am now ready to stake upon it; and I leave off as I began, that live or die, survive or perish, I am for the declaration.” –John Adams at the signing of the Declaration of Independence
A committee of five was assigned to draft a Declaration explaining the resolution: Ben Franklin, Roger Sherman of Connecticut, Robert Livingston of New York, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. The committee turned the job over to Jefferson, who was 33 years old at the time he wrote the Declaration of Independence. The Continental Congress made more than eighty changes to Jefferson’s draft, which had been slightly amended by Adams and all of which Jefferson hated.
On July 4, 1776, the Second Continental Congress unanimously adopted the Declaration of Independence, announcing the colonies’ separation from Great Britain. The Constitution provides the legal and governmental framework for the United States, however, the Declaration, with its eloquent assertion “all Men are created equal,” is equally beloved by the American people. It was initially adopted by Congress on July 2, 1776, but then it was revised and the final version was adopted two days later.
The document was not signed on July 4th, but approved by the Second Continental Congress on that day. It was signed on August 2nd, 1776. All of the men were not present and it was not until January 1777 that all fifty-six signers put their name on the Declaration of Independence.
The first and second drafts of the Declaration of Independence were on hemp paper (made from Cannabis Sativa) and the final one on parchment (animal hide).
The Liberty Bell sounded from the tower of Independence Hall on July 8, 1776, summoning citizens to gather for the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence by Colonel John Nixon.
Several countries used the Declaration of Independence as a beacon in their own struggles for freedom. Among them, France. Then later, Greece, Poland, Russia and many countries in South America.
Fifty-six men signed The Declaration of Independence. They came from the newly formed thirteen colonies. Pennsylvania had the most signers with nine; Rhode Island had the fewest with two.
The names of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were withheld from the public for more than six months to protect the signers. If independence had not been achieved, the treasonable act of the signers would have, by law, resulted in their deaths.
The average age of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence was 45.
The first person to sign the Declaration of Independence was John Hancock, President of the Continental Congress at the time. His name became synonymous with the term “signature” because of his large, ornate signature. Although Hancock claimed that he wanted his name large enough for King George III to read without his spectacles, the king never received a copy with Hancock’s signature, say historians.
The oldest signer of the Declaration of Independence was Benjamin Franklin who was 70. The youngest was Edward Rutledge at 26 years old.
1 out of 8 signers of the signers were educated at Harvard (7 total). Four each at William & Mary, Yale, and Princeton. George Wythe was a professor at William & Mary and one of his students was Thomas Jefferson.
Eight of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence were born in Britain.
According to History.com, Richard Stockton was the one signer that would later recant support for the revolution. Stockton was a Princeton-based lawyer and the post says: On November 30, 1776, the hapless delegate was captured by the British and thrown in jail. After months of harsh treatment and meager rations, Stockton repudiated his signature on the Declaration of Independence and swore his allegiance to King George III. A broken man when he regained his freedom, he took a new oath of loyalty to the state of New Jersey in December 1777.
The original Declaration of Independence can be viewed by visiting the National Archives, Washington D.C. The original copy is severely faded and sits under special glass in the Rotunda for the Chambers of Freedom.
The case that holds the Declaration of Independence is bullet proof and when the archives are closed, the Declaration is moved to an underground vault.
In the movie: National Treasure they say there is a map on the back of the Declaration, this is not true. What is true is that there are a few handwritten words on the back, “Original Declaration of Independence/ dated 4th July 1776”.
In a letter to his wife Abigail, in 1776, John Adams wrote that America’s independence “will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival…with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.” Given that the United States at that time went no further west than the Appalachian Mountains, his prediction of a continent-wide celebration was nothing short of prophetic.
Unfortunate irony: Thomas Jefferson and John Adams died on July 4, 1826—the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence. The fifth U.S. president, James Monroe, also died on July 4, but in 1831. Yes, that makes three of our 43 presidents who are deceased who died on the country’s Independence Day. What are the odds of that?
Calvin Coolidge is the only U.S. president born on the 4th of July. He was born in 1872.
Red, white and blue have not always been the colors traditionally associated with Independence Day celebrations. In 1778, in New Brunswick, New Jersey, where the army was camped, General George Washington directed his soldiers to place “green boughs” in their hats to celebrate the day. He also issued the troops a double allowance of rum and ordered an artillery salute.
Philadelphians marked the first anniversary of American independence with a spontaneous celebration, which is described in a letter by John Adams to Abigail Adams. However, observing Independence Day only became commonplace after the War of 1812. Soon, events such as groundbreaking ceremonies for the Erie Canal and the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad were scheduled to coincide with July 4th festivities.
In July, 1776 the population of America was 2.5 million, roughly the same number of people who currently live in Brooklyn, New York. Today the population of America is over 323 million.
In 1781, the Massachusetts General Court became the first state legislature to recognize July 4 as a state celebration
1791 was the year that the name “Independence Day” was used for the first time. It may have been used before then, but that was the first time it was recorded.
On July 4, 1803, President Thomas Jefferson officially announced the Louisiana Purchase, which included territory encompassing much of the Midwest.
The first Independence Day celebration west of the Mississippi also occurred during Jefferson’s presidency; it took place at Independence Creek and was celebrated by Lewis and Clark in 1805 while they were exploring the territory Jefferson had acquired from France with the Louisiana Purchase.
Samuel Francis Smith unveiled the song called “America” and what would eventually be better known as “My Country, ’Tis of Thee.” The song was first performed on July 4, 1831, by a children’s choir in Boston.
On July 4, 1848, President James Polk, accompanied by First Lady Dolly Madison and a number of other VIPs, oversaw the laying of the cornerstone of the Washington Monument. Three years later, on July 4, 1851, President Millard Fillmore took part in laying the cornerstone of the new Capitol Building.
On July 4, 1886, the Statute of Liberty, a present from the people of France, was dedicated in New York Harbor, exactly two years after it was first presented as a gift from the French to the U.S. in Paris.
By the 1870s, the Fourth of July was the most important secular holiday on the calendar. Congress passed a law making Independence Day a federal holiday on June 28, 1870.
July 4, 1939, Lou Gehrig, diagnosed with Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, told a crowd at Yankee Stadium that he was retiring and considered himself “The luckiest man on the face of the earth.”
July 4, 1983: Dave Righetti threw a No-Hitter and the Yankees beat the Red Sox 4-0.
The longest baseball game played on July 4th was in 1985 when the New York Mets faced the Atlanta Braves. The game went 19 innings and lasted 6 hours and 10 minutes before the Mets won with a score of 16-13.
To avoid cracking it, the Liberty Bell has not been rung since 1846. To mark the quintessential day, every fourth of July it is symbolically tapped 13 times.
There’s another country that’s big on the holiday: Denmark. Extensive Danish emigration to the US prompted the launch of celebrations in 1912. Now, a festival in the city of Rebild calls itself the biggest Fourth party outside the US; Ronald Reagan and George HW Bush have visited.
Did you know, that there have been 28 versions of the U.S flag to date, and that the most recent one, designed after Alaska and Hawaii joined the union, was the result of a school project? Robert Heft was 17 when he came up with the flag design in 1958. He originally got a B- on the project, but when his pattern won the national competition to become the next flag, his teacher raised his grade to an A.
July 4 1997 – The Mars Pathfinder landed on the surface of Mars, 20 years after the first spacecraft was sent to study the planet. The Pathfinder carried the Sojourner, the first rover for another planet, which took many pictures and rock samples.
While it is not known when the first official Fourth of July barbeque occurred, it has been recorded that as far back as 1777, towns celebrated our break from British rule and the signing of the Declaration of Independence. After the Revolutionary War ended in 1783, picnics, parades, and fireworks became ways that Americans celebrated the holiday.
More than 74 million Americans will BBQ today.
68.3 million cases of beer are sold on Independence Day around the country.
On the 4th of July there are more alcohol related fatalities than New Year’s Day
The National Hot Dog and Sausage Council estimates that over seven billion hot dogs will be eaten by Americans between Memorial Day and Labor Day. During the July 4th weekend alone (the biggest hot-dog holiday of the year), 155 million will be downed. There is more than a 1 in 4 chance you will be eating a hot dog on the 4th.
According to archives, the Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest was first held in 1916, the year Nathan’s opened on Surf Avenue. The contest has been held each year since then, except in 1941, when it was canceled as a protest to the war in Europe, and in 1971, when it was canceled as a protest to civil unrest. Joey Chestnut of San Jose, California, has won the title seven times. He also holds the world record for eating 69 hot dogs. 2010 – Joey Chestnut wins for the fourth straight year by eating 54 hot dogs. Takeru Kobayashi, who didn’t compete due to a contract dispute, is arrested while rushing the stage after the event. 2011 – For the first time, men and women compete separately. 2012 – Joey Chestnut wins his sixth consecutive Nathan’s Hog Dog Eating Contest by eating 68 hot dogs and Sonya Thomas wins the women’s contest by eating 45 hot dogs. 2013 – Joey Chestnut defends his title and sets a new record eating 69 hotdogs in ten minutes. Sonya Thomas also wins eating 36.75 hot dogs in ten minutes.
Almost a 1 in 3 chance that the hot dogs and pork sausages consumed on the Fourth of July originated in Iowa. The Hawkeye State was home to 19.7 million hogs and pigs on March 1, 2012. This estimate represents almost one-third of the nation’s estimated total. North Carolina (8.6 million) and Minnesota (7.6 million) were also homes to large numbers of pigs.
If your beef hot dog, steak, or burger didn’t come from Texas, there’s a good chance it originated in Nebraska or Kansas.
Americans spend $203 million just on condiments for July 4th. That’s more than the $193 million we spend on hamburger patties.
Potato salad and potato chips are popular food items at Fourth of July barbecues. Approximately half of the nation’s spuds were produced in Idaho or Washington state in 2011.
Watermelon is a favorite part of the July 4th meal. More watermelons are sold during the Independence Day weekend than the rest of the entire year. Watermelon, the fruit that is really a Vegetable. Watermelon can be traced back to Africa and is part of the cucumber and squash family. Early watermelons were mainly rind and seeds. Today’s varieties are larger, the flesh sweeter, the seeds smaller and the rind thinner. It is perhaps the most refreshing, thirst quenching fruit of all. Watermelon consists of 92% water and 8% sugar, so it is aptly named. Americans eat over 17 lbs of watermelon each year.
75% of all lettuce head production comes from California while 71% of all fresh tomatoes come from California or Florida
Fireworks have been an integral part of the Independence Day celebrations since 1770s. In a letter to his wife John Adams, who first proposed the idea of declaring independence from England, wrote: “Ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more”. In late 1700s, however, fireworks were called “rockets”.
The first celebrations involved rockets not fireworks. At the Philadelphia celebration in 1777, they fired thirteen rockets to represent the thirteen colonies.
The value of fireworks imported from China in 2011 was $232.3 million, representing the bulk of all U.S. fireworks imported ($223.4 million). U.S. exports of fireworks, by comparison, came to just $15.8 million in 2011, with Australia purchasing more than any other country ($4.5 million).
The American Pyrotechnics Association (APA) estimates that more than 14,000 professional firework displays light up the skies in the United States each 4th of July.
Macy’s department store in New York City claims to hold the world’s largest fireworks display. Every year at 9 p.m. on July 4, four barges in the East River, set just between 23rd and 42nd streets, set off 20,000 aerial shells and special effects. The New York Fire Department also operates “fire boats” on the river that shoot red, clear and blue water 300 feet into the air.
The height at which a firework explodes is dependent on how the fireworks are packed and the size of the firework shell — the lowest altitude, 300 feet, comes from a 3-inch shell, and a 12-inch shell can launch a firework that explodes at 1,300 feet.
The world’s largest single firework was set off at a festival in Japan in 1988. The shell weighed over half a ton and the burst was over a kilometer across.
Sparklers with metal cores can be hottest in the middle section and can reach a temperature of 1000 F degrees (some sites say 1800 F degrees-which is hot enough to melt gold!). Wooden core sparklers burn down entirely but can cause burns from falling ash.
Three sparklers burning together generate the same heat as a blow-torch.
A 2009 report from the National Council on Fireworks Safety indicated that sparklers are responsible for 16 percent of legal firework-related injuries in the United States. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s statistics from the Fourth of July festivities in 2003 indicate that sparklers were involved in a majority (57%) of fireworks injuries sustained by children under five years of age.
According to new data released by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), the 30 days surrounding the July 4th Holiday send approximately two thousand injured consumers to emergency rooms for firework related burns and injuries.
Last year there were 11,000 firework-related injuries, more than half of which were minor burns on the hands.
Every year, fireworks account for a substantial number of preventable injuries and fires. Because fireworks can be dangerous and deadly, the safest way to enjoy them is through public displays conducted by professionals hired by cities and other civic organizations. Enjoy a fireworks display on Saturday July 5 at Freedom High in Oakley.
In 2011, $3.6 million was the dollar value of U.S. imports of American flags. The vast majority of this amount ($3.3 million) was for U.S. flags made in China. The U.S. exported $663,071 worth of U.S. flags. Mexico was the leading customer, purchasing $80,349 worth.
26% of Americans don’t know what country we won our independence from
The British are coming! Literally, coming. Although the cry now applies to tourists rather than redcoats. Nearly 5 million tourists visited the United States last year from the United Kingdom. British travel to the United States is second only to Japan.
Have a happy and safe 4th and remember that in Oakley all fireworks are illegal.
The summer weather conditions in our area such as high temperatures, wind and low humidity, along with the dry grass and untreated wood shake roofs all provide the ingredients for a fire disaster.
This holiday is forecast to be hot, with wind and lower humidity, creating a higher than normal fire danger for our area.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
-The Declaration of Independence 4 of July, 1776.