The Most Unusual Facts About The 4th of July

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No Party the First Year

How many signers did the Declaration of Independence have in 1776? -- Two.

The Continental Congress of the United States of America adopted the Declaration of Independence on July 2, 1776. In a letter to his wife Abigail, John Adams predicted that July 2 would soon become a national holiday.

A Parade in Their Hearts

Artists impression of Washington crossing the Delaware, 4th of July parade instruments at the ready.
Artists impression of Washington crossing the Delaware, 4th of July parade instruments at the ready.

A One Gun Salute

Bigger Than Mardi Gras?

For a several years I marched in 4th of July Parades as lead trumpet for a marching band (in wool uniforms!) and as part of civic groups.

We always had fun, no matter how hot and sunburned some of us ended. Picnics and cookouts followed and the evening always concluded with fireworks displays all over town from July 1 - July 8.

The celebration was always a week long, with parades, special sales at all the stores, parties, speeches, war memorial presentations, and a lot more.

Some folks forgot about the Revolutionary War and why we fought it and most assumed that the first big July 4th Party was held on 07/04/1776; but, it didn't happen.

Revolutionary Battle Reenactment

The 2nd Of July

On that first July 2, the Declaration of Independence was only a draft, signed only by two men: 1) Secretary of Congress Charles Thompson and 2) Congressional Leader John Hancock.

A revision was written by July 4, 1776, it was printed, and then the new version was sent to each of the US States and all military officers.

It still had only two signatures.

People generally ignored the Declaration of Independence as old news. After all, it had only two signatures.

John Adams thought it was frivolous and boring. In his words, he stated, "...dress and ornament rather than Body, Soul, or Substance."

Thus the Declaration was initially disrespected and ignored, even by leaders of the country.

Cannon in Philadelphia

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Slow Proclamation Around the Country

No actual celebration occurred in America for her Independence that first year until after mid-July! The first celebration was like a small corner of the August Buckeye Lake Corn Fest in Ohio, rather than a national holiday.

Only one newspaper of the day printed the Declaration of Independence - this was The Philadelphia Evening Post - and not until July 6.

The Declaration was read aloud from the Philadelphia State House, but not until July 8. Later on the same date, the Declaration was also read aloud as a proclamation in Easton, PA, Trenton, NJ, and to some militiamen around those areas. On July 6 and 8, there were some instances of shouting for joy and some rifles fired, but not much of either. There was no big celebration.

However, as the days passed and finally became weeks, the US Declaration of Independence was proclaimed in full readings around the 13 New States - at town meetings and even during religious services (where did separation of church and state begin?).

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July 4, 1777

All of this took some time to come about, given that horses were the only means of transportation, so July 4th Celebrations emerged slowly. During mid-July, US residents began to light a few celebratory bonfires, fired some more rifles, rang church bells, and scrapped any symbol of England and the King that they could find. No fireworks.

In 1777, no government official at all thought about celebrating the Declaration of Independence and freedom from British rule - until July 3rd, a day late. The thought never occurred to anyone before that and no documentation of such an 18th century thought has yet been uncovered in the 21st century.

Rushing around to save face, a celebration was thrown together for July 4, 1777 in Philadelphia, home of the US Congress and the New Nation's first Capitol. Tall ships in the harbor were gallantly decorated in red, white and blue. Several 13-gun salutes were shot to honor the original 13 Colonies that became 13 US States. Finally, there were parades and fireworks (alas, from England). After 1816, the US started domestic manufacturing of fireworks so that they no longer had to buy them form the UK.

Thus, The US declared July 4 to be a national holiday in 1777. Each year, festivities became more gala and huge. In 1976, an outsized celebration in NYC included several 100 Elvis impersonators dancing and singing in front of the Statues of Liberty. In 200 years, we changed our image form Freedom Fighters for Justice and Liberty, to purveyors of Disneyland and Rock and Roll.

Was it a step up?

France has likely wanted to take back their Statue of Liberty from the "gauche" Americans, Lady Liberty given to us in 1876. But, even then, manufacturing and capitalism had taken a firm grip on America.

Other July 4th Information

On July 4, 1826 our Presidents John Adams and Thomas Jefferson both died. Later, President James Monroe also died on a July 4 holiday.

Born on the 4th of July! - Besides Jimmy Cagney's and George M. Cohan's Yankee Doodle Dandy, President Calvin Coolidge was born on that fortuitous date (in 1872).

Yankee Doodle Dandy

Movies About Or Opened On A July 4:

  • HANCOCK - Starring Will Smith. A new type of All American hero.
  • INDEPENDENCE DAY - ID4 - Starring Will Smith
  • ROCKY (1975, Rocky "again" 1985) - Sylvester Stallone - Champions' matches on the 4th of July in Philadelphia.
  • Born on the Fourth of July - Biography of a US Vietnam veteran - Starring Tom Cruise.
  • 1776 (released in 1972) - Starring Ken Howard and William Daniels
  • The Music Man - Starring Robert Preston with "76 Trombones"
  • Ideals of the Declaration mentioned in Harper Lee's tale made film - To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
  • The Stars and Stripes Forever - Clifton Webb and Robert Wagner
  • Johnny Tremain
  • The Fighting Sullivans - 1944
  • Yankee Doodle Dandy - Starring James Cagney in 1942; written by George M. Cohan, really born on July 4.

Especially for Younger Kids:

  • This is America, Charlie Brown
  • Paul Revere: Midnight Ride
  • All American Tail
  • All Aboard America

The real George M. Cohan & Jimmy Durante in "Wave the Flag", 1932 [please forgive the minstrel show]

© 2008 Patty Inglish

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Trivia and Comments 14 comments

funnebone profile image

funnebone 8 years ago from Philadelphia Pa

."In 200 years, we changed our image form Freedom Fighters for Justice and Liberty, to purveyors of Disneyland and Rock and Roll."

Great point. I do not recall any specific event because I was 6 and quite the drinker but I do remember that 1976 provided great festivities in the philly region. I often run across 1776-1976 items floating around commemorating that summer. I hope that one day the meaning will come back to this and other holidays.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 8 years ago from North America Author

Yes, capitalism has its downfalls, certainly. Consumerism and waste are legacies we need to replace, imo.


In The Doghouse profile image

In The Doghouse 8 years ago from California

Patty,

This is one of the best presentations on the 4th of July, and it's reason for celebration I have seen. Great information, beautiful presentation. Thanks, Dugg!


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 8 years ago from North America Author

Thanks In the Doghouse! I'm glad you like it. It was fun to do.


stevemark122000 profile image

stevemark122000 8 years ago from Southern California

Very interesting, well written and informative hub, thanks.


KT pdx profile image

KT pdx 7 years ago from Vancouver, WA, USA

Great hub! Very informative. I knew some of that before, but not all of it.

Oh, in the last part of your hub, "All American Tail" should be "An American Tail", and President James Monroe died in 1831.


GojiJuiceGoodness profile image

GojiJuiceGoodness 6 years ago from Roanoke, Virginia

Great hub! It is interesting to learn of the great events in history that have happened on the 4th.


Henning Kristensen 6 years ago

Since 1912 The 4th of july has been celebrated in Denmark

as an expression of gratitude for the new home of more than 300.000 immigrants. The only country outside USA to do so.


Happy4th 6 years ago

I'm old enough to remember when stores were closed for the 4th of July so that their employees could celebrate with their family and friends. I stay away from the stores preferring to give thanks for having the good fortunre of being born in the USA and thanks to my ancestors for emigrating here. The 4th is shared with family and friends, enjoying parades and firework displays.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 6 years ago from North America Author

Henning, I'm indebted to you for that information. Amazing friendship from Denmark!

Happy 4th, Everyone!


Jessica Boesen 6 years ago

Thank you for this. It was a lot of new information for me. I dodn't remember them teaching us in school that the original date was supposed to be July 2! Very interesting!


Shirl 6 years ago

Excellent article. If only my history classes could have been so interesting. Thanks


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 6 years ago from North America Author

Intrestingly, the history of the selection of the 4th of July as a national holiday was widely searched on AOL during 7/4/2010.

Thanks for all the comments!


Albert Street profile image

Albert Street 5 years ago from Northern USA

Loved the REAL details about the 4th of July!

Interesting reading.

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