Since the date for my blog post falls on the 4th of July, I had no trouble deciding what to write about! This holiday, also known as Independence Day, celebrates the Colonies’ adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, which declared independence from Great Britain. Just for fun, I researched some facts about Independence Day and this is what I learned:
1. Congress made Independence Day an official unpaid holiday for federal employees in 1870. In 1938, Congress changed Independence Day to a paid federal holiday.
2. Only John Hancock signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. All the others signed later.
3. The Declaration of Independence was signed by 56 men from 13 colonies.
4. The average age of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence was 45. The youngest was Thomas Lynch, Jr (27) of South Carolina. The oldest was Benjamin Franklin (70) of Pennsylvania. The lead author, Thomas Jefferson, was 33.
5. Seven signers of the Declaration of Independence were educated at Harvard.
6. Two signers of the Declaration of Independence later served as President of the United States—- John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.
7. The stars on the original American flag were in a circle so all the Colonies would appear equal.
8. The first Independence Day celebration took place in Philadelphia on July 8, 1776. This was also the day that the Declaration of Independence was first read in public after people were summoned by the ringing of the Liberty Bell.
9. The White House held its first 4th of July party in 1801.
10. President John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Monroe all died on the Fourth. Adams and Jefferson, who both signed the Declaration, died on the same day within hours of each other in 1826.
11. Benjamin Franklin proposed the turkey as the national bird but was overruled by John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, who recommended the bald eagle.
12. In 1776, there were 2.5 million people living in the new nation. Today the population of the U.S.A. is 316 million.
13. Fifty-nine places in the U.S. contain the word “liberty” in the name. Pennsylvania, with 11, has more of these places than any other state.
14. The most common patriotic-sounding word used within place names is “union” with 136. Pennsylvania, with 33, has more than any other state. Other words commonly used are Washington (127), Franklin (118), Jackson (96) and Lincoln (95).
15. Fireworks are part of the tradition of celebrating this national holiday. The U.S. imported $227.3 million worth of fireworks from China in 2012.
16. In 2012, most of the imported U.S. flags ($3.6 million) were made in China.
17. Barbecue is also big on Independence Day. Approximately 150 million hot dogs and 700 million pounds of chicken are consumed on this day.
18. Every 4th of July the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia is tapped (not actually rung) thirteen times in honor of the original thirteen colonies.
19. Traditions place the origins of “Yankee Doodle” as a pre-Revolutionary War song originally sung by British military officers to mock the colonial “Yankees” with whom they served in the French and Indian War.
20. “The Star-Spangled Banner” is the national anthem of the U.S.A. The lyrics come from a poem written on September 14, 1814, by the 35-year-old lawyer Francis Scott Key. He was inspired by the large American flag flying triumphantly above the Fort M’Henry during the American victory.
In the midst of fireworks, parades, and picnics, it’s meaningful to go back in history and be reminded of what we are celebrating—Freedom, Liberty, and Justice for All.
Here’s to loud fireworks, flags flying, and barbecued chicken!