It has been 238 years since the Continental Congress approved the final text of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. Since then, Independence Day has become synonymous with patriotic parades, fireworks and barbecues. Highlands Today has compiled its annual Fourth of July fun facts, from its history to its annual traditions.
So what really happened on July 4, 1776?
The Continental Congress approved the final text of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, setting the 13 colonies on the road to freedom as a sovereign nation. In fact, independence was formally declared on July 2, 1776, a date that John Adams believed would be “the most memorable epocha in the history of America.”
The Continental Congress had been working on the draft after it was submitted on July 2 and finally agreed on the changes July 4. July 4, 1776, also became the date that was included on the Declaration of Independence, which was signed in August. It’s also the date that was printed on the Dunlap Broadsides, the original printed copies of the Declaration that were circulated throughout the new nation.
When did the tradition of July 4th fireworks start?
Philadelphians marked the first anniversary of American independence with a spontaneous celebration, which is described in a letter by John Adams to Abigail Adams. However, observing Independence Day only became commonplace after the War of 1812. Soon, events such as ground-breaking ceremonies for the Erie Canal and the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad were scheduled to coincide with July 4th festivities. By the 1870s, the Fourth of July was the most important secular holiday on the calendar. Congress passed a law making Independence Day a federal holiday on June 28, 1870.
Population numbers -- then and now?
In July 1776, the estimated number of people living in the newly independent nation was 2.5 million
The nation’s estimated population on this July Fourth is 318.4 million.
Was Thomas Jefferson the sole author of the Declaration?
Although Thomas Jefferson is often called the “author” of the Declaration of Independence, he wasn’t the only person who contributed important ideas. Jefferson was a member of a five-person committee appointed by the Continental Congress to write the declaration. The committee included Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Robert Livingston, and Roger Sherman.
Livingston never signed it. He believed it was too soon to declare independence and therefore refused to sign.
What one July Fourth barbecue table item could come from Florida?
Watermelons. Forty-four states grow watermelons in the United States but Florida, Texas, California, Georgia and Arizona consistently leading the country in production.
Where are most of our fireworks coming from?
You guessed it right. China. The United States imported $203.6 million worth of fireworks from China in 2013, representing the bulk of all U.S. fireworks imported ($213.8 million). U.S. exports of fireworks, by comparison, came to just $10.2 million in 2013, with Israel purchasing more than any other country ($2.7 million).
Where did most of the U.S. flags come from?
You guessed it right again. China. In 2013, the dollar value of U.S. imports of American flags was $4 million. The vast majority of this amount ($3.9 million) was for U.S. flags made in China.
By contrast, $781,222 worth of U.S. flags was exported in 2013. The Dominican Republic was the leading customer, purchasing $160,000 worth.
The Fourth and hot dogs go hand in hand?
On Independence Day, Americans will enjoy 150 million hot dogs, enough to stretch from Washington, D.C. to Los Angeles over five times, according to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council. Ten percent of annual retail hot dog sales occur during July, which is designated as National Hot Dog Month.
Meanwhile, the history of the hot dog is a little unclear. The hot dog council speculates the North American hot dog came from a widespread common European sausage brought here by butchers of several nationalities. Also in doubt is who first served the dachshund sausage with a roll. One report says a German immigrant sold them, along with milk rolls and sauerkraut, from a push cart in New York City’s Bowery during the 1860s. In 1871, Charles Feltman, a German butcher opened up the first Coney Island hot dog stand selling 3,684 dachshund sausages in a milk roll during his first year in business.
The year, 1893, was an important date in hot dog history, the council adds. In Chicago that year, the Colombian Exposition brought hordes of visitors who consumed large quantities of sausages sold by vendors. “People liked this food that was easy to eat, convenient and inexpensive. Hot dog historian Bruce Kraig, retired professor emeritus at Roosevelt University, says the Germans always ate the dachshund sausages with bread. Since the sausage culture is German, it is likely that Germans introduced the practice of eating the dachshund sausages, which we today know as the hot dog, nestled in a bun. “
What is the Liberty Bell’s role and how is this tradition observed today?
On July 8, 1776, chimes from the Liberty Bell reportedly rang out from the tower of Independence Hall so Philadelphia residents could hear the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence.
But the 2,000-pound bell has cracks now although there is widespread disagreement about when the first crack appeared. Hair-line cracks on bells were bored out to prevent expansion, states http://www.ushistory.org/libertybell/. However, it is agreed that the final expansion of the crack, which rendered the bell unringable, was on Washington’s birthday in 1846.
Due to concerns about cracking the iconic instrument, the Liberty Bell has not been rung since 1846. Instead, every year, to mark the Fourth of July, at 2 p.m. Eastern time, Declaration signers’ descendants symbolically tap the bell 13 times while bells across the nation also ring 13 times in honor of the patriots from the original 13 states.
Sources: http://digitaljournal.com/pr/2025800#ixzz36JrNUY9x; http://www.crfcelebrateamerica.org/index.php/holidays/4th-of-july/90-ideals-and-realities; http://www.constitutionfacts.com/us-declaration-of-independence/fascinating-facts/
http://www.ushistory.org/libertybell/; uscensus.gov; http://www.usa.gov/Topics/Independence-Day.shtml