This 4th of July will provide a much-needed chance to relax in the sun and enjoy the holiday with family. As you plan your celebrations, read on to learn a few fun facts that you may not know about Independence Day.
- Declaring independence: Writing the Declaration of Independence actually began on July 2, 1776. Founding father John Adams believed we should celebrate July 2nd instead of the 4th, because it was the day the official vote for independence occurred. What started as a letter to King George to explain the Continental Congress’s vote to declare independence was finalized, dated, and adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4th. Additionally, only John Hancock and Charles Thompson signed it on July 4th, and they did so in order to print early copies to distribute among military and political groups. The official signing, where most of the remaining 54 men signed the official final copy, was on August 2nd. This is the copy and date where John Hancock infamously signed his name in large letters.
- Celebrating the holiday: The very first celebrations for Independence Day occurred in Philadelphia on July 8, 1776, as it was the first day the Declaration of Independence was read publicly. As early as 1777, Americans began regularly observing the holiday, as there is record of a celebration in Philadelphia that included a parade, cannon salute, and fireworks to mark the day. Massachusetts was the first state to recognize Independence Day as an official holiday in 1781, and in 1804, the White House celebrated July 4th for the first time. Congress did not designate any federal holidays until 1870, where Independence Day was included along with New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. However, it remained an unpaid federal holiday until 1938.
- Designing the flag: The original flag had 13 stars in a circle to represent all of the colonies as equals. On June 14, 1777, the Second Continental Congress passed the first Flag Act establishing an official flag for the United States: “Resolved, that the flag of the United States be made of thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new Constellation.” As more states joined the U.S., the flag was redesigned several times to accommodate new stars. In 1958, as Hawaii and Alaska neared statehood, a history teacher issued a class assignment to design the new flag. Disappointed 16-year-old Robert Heft, who received a B- for his flag design, sent his flag to President Eisenhower for consideration. His design was ultimately selected, his grade was changed to an A, and his design because the official flag in 1960 that we still use today.
- Planning the festivities: Approximately 150 million hot dogs are consumed on Independence Day annually, and according to the American Pyrotechnics Association, Americans spend more than $1 billion on fireworks annually. Out of this, only 10% of firework displays are set off by professionals, which likely accounts for a significant portion of the estimated 13,000 firework-related emergency room visits across the country on July 4th.
We hope you and your family enjoy a safe and happy July 4th—this year and every year.