The Fourth of July—also known as Independence Day or July 4th—has been a federal holiday in the United States since 1941, but the tradition of Independence Day celebrations goes back to the 18th century and the American Revolution.
On July 2nd, 1776, the Continental Congress voted in favor of independence, and two days later delegates from the 13 colonies adopted the Declaration of Independence, a historic document drafted by Thomas Jefferson.
From 1776 to the present day, July 4th has been celebrated as the birth of American independence, with festivities ranging from fireworks, parades and concerts to more casual family gatherings and barbecues.
1. Congress made Independence Day an official unpaid holiday for federal employees in 1870. In 1938, Congress changed Independence Day to a paid federal holiday.
2. The Declaration of Independence was actually a letter to King George that had been written on July 2 by Thomas Jefferson. It was a formal explanation of why the Continental Congress voted to declare independence from Great Britain. It was meant to justify a revolt against the British, with a list of charges against the British king.
3. Only John Hancock actually signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. All the others signed later.
4. The Declaration of Independence was signed by 56 men from 13 colonies.
5. The average age of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence was 45. The youngest was Thomas Lynch, Jr (27) of South Carolina. The oldest delegate was Benjamin Franklin (70) of Pennsylvania. The lead author of The Declaration, Thomas Jefferson, was 33.
6.The only two signers of the Declaration of Independence who later served as President of the United States were John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.
7. The stars on the original American flag were in a circle so all the Colonies would appear equal.
8.The first Independence Day celebration took place in Philadelphia on July 8, 1776. This was also the day that the Declaration of Independence was first read in public after people were summoned by the ringing of the Liberty Bell.
9. The White House held its first 4th July party in 1801.
10.Benjamin Franklin proposed the turkey as the national bird but was overruled by John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, who recommended the bald eagle.
11.In 1776, there were 2.5 million people living in the new nation. Today the population of the U.S.A. is 316 million.
12.Every 4th of July the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia is tapped (not actually rung) thirteen times in honor of the original thirteen colonies.
13. Barbecue is also big on Independence Day. Approximately 150 million hot dogs and 700 million pounds of chicken are consumed on this day.
14.Each year around 500,000 people gather to watch fireworks and listen to patriotic music in Washington DC on the Capitol lawn.
15.Each year there is a famous hot dog eating contest at Coney Island, New York. Around 40,000 people show up to watch and millions watch it on TV
16.One of the more popular celebrations to watch on TV is the music and fireworks show put on by the Boston Pops Orchestra.