When it comes to the Fourth of July, there’s nothing more traditional to commemorate freedom than illuminating the sky with things that go boom. Why though? How did a document establishing the United States of America and independence from Great Britain lead to the spectacle that is fireworks?
You can thank John Adams (second cousin to the beer guy, Samuel). Before putting ink to paper, on July 3, 1776, Adams wrote a letter to his wife envisioning independence be “solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.” A year later on July 4, 1777, the first-ever Independence Day celebration held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (home to the signing of the Declaration of Independence) brought Adams’ vision to reality by featuring a spectacular fireworks display to conclude the days’ festivities. And you could say the rest was history. Today, Americans spend $900 million annually on fireworks.
Fascinating, right? Well, it’s not the only interesting tidbit about America’s birthday you probably did not know. Here are some other mind-blowing facts about the Fourth of July.
Happy Fourth of July! Or, is it the Second of August?
The Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776 with John Hancock being the first and only to sign the document on that exact date. Two days earlier though, on July 2, 1776, Continental Congress voted for independence, with most members giving their “John Hancock” signature on August 2, 1776. The Fourth of July just rolls off the tongue better.
Thank you, Massachusetts
“The Old Colony State” or “The Codfish State” known by locals, Massachusetts should be called the “Independence State.” After the U.S. Congress declared Independence Day a federal holiday in 1870, it was Massachusetts, not Pennsylvania, which was the first to officially recognize the holiday. It wouldn’t be until 1941 when Congress granted a paid holiday to all federal employees.
Just a Coincidence?
U.S. presidents John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe all passed away on the Fourth of July. Meanwhile, Calvin Coolidge was born on July 4, 1872, the only president to share the same birthday with America.
Dogs and Independence Day stick like peanut butter and jelly. Did you know the inventor of the hot dog, Harry Stevens, called the Mahoning Valley home? Yep, Niles, Ohio to be exact. In fact, the city celebrates Harry’s great accomplish (oh, he also invented the baseball scorecard) with a daylong celebration each June.
We hope you learned something! Have a safe and happy July 4th this year!
Costa-Roberts, Daniel, and Daniel Moritz-Rabson. “8 Things You Didn’t Know about the Fourth of July.” PBS, Public Broadcasting Service, 3 July 2016, www.pbs.org/newshour/nation/8- things-didnt-know-fourth-july.
Simon, Caroline. “9 Things You Didn’t Know about the Fourth of July.” USA Today, Gannett Satellite Information Network, 3 July 2018, www.usatoday.com/story/news/2018/07/03/july-4th-things-you-didnt-know/754 244002/.