Happy Birthday America!
Most people have no knowledge about the American Revolution. But if it’s been a while since we may have read our U.S. History books, here are five fun facts about Independence Day worth brushing up on.
Independence Day is really longer than a day
July 4 is the day we celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence, but not all 56 eventual signers signed that day. There is actually quite the dispute about who signed the document and when. Some say it was the 4th of July, 1776—when John Hancock affixed his big, loopy signature. This copy was then sent to the printers, where 200 copies were made. A few others signed the original a few days later, perhaps on July 8th, the day it was read aloud in public for the first time. But most members of the Second Continental Congress did not sign until August 2—so maybe we should just celebrate Independence Month.
Why red, white and blue?
Most people are aware what the stars and stripes represent on the American flag (the 50 states and original 13 colonies, respectively), but why red, white and blue? The common story is that the colors represent purity and innocence (white), hardiness and valor (red), and vigilance, perseverance and justice (blue). But that was actually the reasoning the creator of the Great Seal of the United States gave for including the flag in the stamp that wasn’t used until 1782. The colors of the flag, however, may simply have been chosen because it was designed after the British Union Jack. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
What do fireworks have to do with independence?
Fireworks on the Fourth of July is a tradition dating back to 1777, the first anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence. John Adams wrote in a letter to his wife, Abigail, that he wanted Independence Day to be celebrated with pomp, parade, shows, and “Illuminations”, hence the splashy show we put on. The day in the letter to which Adams is referring, however, was not July 4, but rather July 2 — the day the declaration was voted upon by delegates from 12 of the 13 colonies.
Massachusetts was the first state to recognize the holiday
Massachusetts recognized the Fourth of July as an official holiday on July 3, 1781, making it the first state to do so. It wasn’t until June 28, 1870 that Congress decided to start designating federal holidays, with the first four being New Year’s Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. This decreed that those days were holidays for federal employees. However, there was a distinction. The Fourth was a holiday “within the District of Columbia” only. It would take years of new legislation to expand the holiday to all federal employees.