The 231st celebration of the Declaration of Independence is upon us, and America is ready to celebrate! Fire up the grill and break out your hot dogs and hamburgers, because the 4th of July is just around the corner.
Although our nation’s real independence began at the end of the Revolutionary War on September 3rd in 1783 and President John Adams originally thought Americans would be celebrating a different day- July 2nd – as a commemoration of our country’s freedom, Americans still look to the 4th to celebrate the birthday of America.
July 2nd was the day when Adams and the rest of his colleagues signed the Declaration of Independence, while the 4th was simply the day Americans accepted the document. Although correct in assuming the day would 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,” Adams simply missed the mark by 48 hours.
And, indeed the 4th is celebrated with much festivity, but also with a sense of historical recognition. Since 1776, the 4th of July has been a day of spectacle and prominence, with every year bringing a new event. A list of 13 historical events that occurred on this historic day has been compiled by James R. Heintze (american.edu/heintze/fourth.htm) but here are a few of the most prominent events:
1. 1777 The first 4th of July celebration containing 13 guns (each representing a colony) fired once in the morning and once as evening fell in Bristol, Rhode Island. Bristol now claims to hold the oldest 4th of July celebration, giving it the nickname “America’s most patriotic town.”
2. 1778 General George Washington marked the 2nd anniversary with double rations of rum for his soldiers and an order to put “green boughs” in their hats.
3. 1791 The first record of the 4th being called “Independence Day” and George Washington’s only 4th of July address in Lancaster, PA .
4. 1804 The first celebration of Independence Day west of the Mississippi at Independence Creek, celebrated by Lewis and Clark.
5. 1826 John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, the only two men to sign the Declaration of Independence and become President, both die on July 4th of this year; also the 50th anniversary of the United States.
6. 1870 Congress makes July 4th a national, but unpaid, holiday for all federal employees.
7. 1872 Calvin Coolidge, 30th president, is born.
8. 1884 The Statue of Liberty is formally presented to the United States.
9. 1916 Four immigrants are said to have been arguing who among them was most patriotic on this 4th of July. The four decided to settle the dispute with a hot dog eating contest, thus sparking Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest held annually on the 4th in Coney Island.
10. 1959 The very first Pepsi 400 held; this event is hosted by NASCAR every 4th of July or the Saturday of 4th of July weekend.
11. 1997 The U.S. Pathfinder lands on Mars.
12. 1999 112 people all born on the 4th from 1900 through 1999 gather in Philadelphia in front of Independence Hall for a “Photo of the Century.”
13. 2006 The first space shuttle to launch on Independence Day becomes Discovery at 2:37:55pm EDT.
Such historical events only add to the fun of Fourth of July celebrations; but food is what makes the 4th special for many Americans. Over the last year, 68 million Americans were said to have participated in a barbeque, many of which occur during the Fourth of July weekend. In this past year, Americans are said to have celebrated so much that 150 million hot dogs were consumed. That leaves one hot dog for every two people; everyone will have to share!
Americans don’t just stop the celebration with food; they have to add some “boom” to signify the day as well. Last year $ 211 million worth of fireworks were purchased in the United States with the bulk being used on Independence Day. The majority of fireworks didn’t come from America, however; most ($ 201.9 million worth) came from China.
One of the largest fireworks displays on the 4th also comes from abroad: Windsor, Ontario hosts a large firework display over the Detroit River every Fourth of July. This celebration is held in order to commemorate both America’s Independence and Canada Day, which marks the formation of the nation ofCanada on July 1st 1867.
America still holds its own places of patriotic pride, as shown by the multitude of places within the United States with patriotic names. For example, at least thirty cities include “liberty” in their names, such as Liberty, MO and Iowa’s Libertyville, North Liberty, West Liberty and New Liberty. The United States also is home to thirty-two “Eagles,” eleven
“Independences,” five “Freedoms,” and even a “Patriot” (residing in Indiana).
Americans also show their pride is through the display of the American flag, a symbol of justice and freedom. The same Americans flying the flag may not know these eight interesting facts about their flag(pueblo.gsa.gov):
1. The version of a flag with 13 alternating red and white stripes and a blue square containing thirteen white starts was adopted on June 14, 1777 by the Marine Committee of the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia, PA.
2. Francis Hopkins of New Jersey designed the flag (and also signed the Declaration of Independence) as well as helping to design the Great Seal of the United States.
3. The “Betsy Ross Flag” refers to a flag containing thirteen stars arranged in a circle.
4. The number of stars on the flag represents the number of current states in the union and thus has been changed multiple times over the years.
5. President Eisenhower set the proportions of the flag with an Executive Order of the President on August 21, 1959. According to this the proportions of the flag are as follows: hoist (width) of flag:1.0, fly (length) of flag:1.9, hoist (width) of union (the blue square containing the stars): 0.5385, fly (length) of union:0.76, width of each stripe:0.0769, diameter of each star: 0.0616.
6. According to the United States code Title 36, Chapter 10 Patriotic Customs, the flag should be displayed only from sunrise to sunset and during good weather.
7. All schools, court houses and main administration buildings for all public institutions should have an American flag close by.
8. Flags should also be hoisted briskly and lower ceremoniously.
Learning such historical and practical information about our country and its Fourth of July traditions adds significance to this holiday. Additional information on Independence Day, flag history and fun facts on U.S. holidays can be found at such sites as the United States Census Bureau (census.gov) Wikipedia at (wikipedia.org). Another great site for finding 30 million articles on hundreds of topics is AccessMyLibrary (accessmylibrary.com). This site grants access to articles that are frequently updated and are free to all users, courtesy of your local library.