The 4th of July is America’s Independence Day. Celebrated as such since the 1770’s, it is the day Americans celebrate their freedom from the rule of Great Britain. The date commemorates the adoption by Congress of Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence. True independence from Great Britain, of course, would not come until the end of the Revolutionary War in the 1780’s.
There are a number of interesting facts about the 4th of July, aside from its obvious importance as America’s national holiday. Consider the following:
1) Despite being “unofficially” celebrated almost since the beginning, the 4th of July was not officially made America’s national holiday until the 1940’s.
2) Declaration of Independence signer Benjamin Harrison was the father and great-grandfather of presidents William Henry Harrison and Benjamin Harrison.
3) Although “Uncle Sam” came to be associated with the U.S. government, and specifically the 4th of July, as early as the 1810’s, Uncle Sam did not become America’s national symbol until the 1960’s.
4) There is no legitimate evidence to suggest that Betsy Ross actually sewed the first American flag.
5) “America the Beautiful” was composed on the 4th of July in 1895 by a college professor named Katharine Lee.
6) July 2, 1776, was actually the day that independence was declared from Great Britain, as part of a resolution passed by Congress on that day. On that day, John Adams declared that July 2nd would go down in history as America’s day of independence.
7) Only John Hancock, who was President of the Congress, signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. The others did not sign until the following month.
8) 56 men signed the Declaration of Independence, representing leaders from all 13 colonies. Pennsylvania had the most representatives with 10; Rhode Island had the fewest, with only 2.
9) Six men named William signed the Declaration of Independence; there were also six Johns, six Thomases, and six Georges. Other first names of signers included Lyman, Button, and Caesar.
10) “The Star Spangled Banner” is set to a tune that was originally a British drinking song, sung in pubs throughout England.
11) A committee selected the eagle as the national bird of the United States. Benjamin Franklin served on this committee (along with John Adams and Thomas Jefferson) and is notable because he argued fiercely for the national bird to be the turkey.
12) On July 4, 1054 – some 700 years before the Declaration of Independence – Chinese and Arab astronomers recorded the explosion of a bright supernova in the sky, which continued to be visible for several months.
13) The United States Military Academy at West Point opened its doors on July 4, 1802.
14) Folk writer Stephen Foster, famous for his songs of Americana, was born on the Fourth of July, 1826.
15) Two signers of the Declaration of Independence later became president: Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. Strangely enough, both these statesmen died on July 4, 1826, within hours of each other (this was the same day Stephen Foster was born). 1826 was also the 50th anniversary of the document’s adoption, and thus a major historical milestone. A third president, James Monroe (who was not a signer of the Declaration of Independence) also died on July 4th, in 1831.