Fourth of July – Independence Day is one of the most important U.S. holidays, marking the anniversary of the founding of the country in 1776. It is celebrated annually on July 4th, and typically includes parades, concerts and fireworks across the nation. Since 1776, it has also been known as The Fourth of July – a reference to both its day and its numerical position on the calendar.
1. A History of Fourth of July
On April 19, 1775, British troops surrounded Massachusetts colonists and shut down their colonial government. In response, colonists in Massachusetts formed the first Committee of Safety and were widely supported by other colonies. They began to pursue independence from Great Britain, which had been enforcing unpopular laws in their colonies since 1763.
By late spring of 1776, the Continental Congress had begun to debate declaring independence. One reason for delay was a lack of unanimity among the colonies on the subject of separation from Britain. The southern colonies were dependent on British imports and trade, while many colonists in New England saw little reason to break ties with their mother country.
On June 7, when the Continental Congress met at the Pennsylvania State House (later Independence Hall) in Philadelphia, the Virginia delegate Richard Henry Lee introduced a motion calling for the colonies’ independence.
“You just gotta ignite the light and let it shine
Just own the night like the Fourth of July”
– Katy Perry
2. The Real Independence Day?
The Fourth of July is the official day of celebration in the United States, though it wasn’t until August 2nd that the Declaration of Independence was officially signed and ratified. The original document did not have any signatures, because only two delegates showed up for the signing ceremony on July 4th.
The delegates on duty that day witnessed each other’s signatures and put their own names down for posterity.
The Fourth of July is a day with a rich history of events and significance. In fact, it’s the day that led to America being an independent country. While most people are familiar with the famous “Declaration of Independence” speech given by John Adams, few seem to know about the letter he wrote to his wife on July 3, 1776 that was used as inspiration for much of the declaration.
3. Old Glory
Robert Heft designed the current U.S. flag in 1958, and his teacher initially gave him a B–but then changed the grade to an A after it became clear that he’d come up with a winner.
There have been 28 versions of the flag since 1777, when the Continental Congress adopted an official design consisting of 13 red and white stripes, alternating between the two colors, along with a field of 13 stars representing each of the colonies in America at that time.
4. Many American presidents have died on the Fourth of July!
The Fourth of July seems to be good luck for some presidents, but not all. Thomas Jefferson and John Adams died on the same day, July 4, 1826—just hours apart. The pair had been rivals in everything; even about which one would live longer. Adams’ last words were “Thomas Jefferson lives!” although he had died 5 hours earlier.
A few other presidents have passed away on July 4: Ulysses S Grant (1885) and William Henry Harrison (1841).
5. Fireworks on Independence Day
In 1777, the first fireworks were lit over the night sky of Philadelphia. They were part of a celebration that included bells ringing and the city being beautifully illuminated.
Boston holds the distinction of being the first city to hold an organized display in honor of Independence Day, though they didn’t light off fireworks until 1777. In 1791, Boston was the first city to host a professionally organized Fourth of July celebration complete with fireworks.
Prior to the War of 1812, Thomas Jefferson encouraged all Americans to celebrate on July 4th with “bells, bonfires and illuminations.”
There’s nothing quite like the experience of a Fourth of July fireworks show. As technology improves and pyrotechnics professionals work hard to put on bigger and better displays each year, this is one American tradition that just keeps growing!
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America is turning 246 years old and we’d like to wish her the best on this Independence Day! It’s been a long time, but it’s clear that America has had many significant changes and is still growing both economically and socially. We hope she enjoys this special day with family, friends, or alone by reflecting on the wonderful opportunities that brought us here today.