Happy Independence Day of USA (July 4): Timeline, Q & A and Facts About
Independence Day is a United States federal holiday, celebrated annually on July 4. Colloquially the day is often referred to simply by its date: Fourth of July or 4th of July.
Independence Day commemorates the publication, on July 4, 1776, of the Declaration of Independence from Great Britain. It is the National Day of the United States and typical celebrations include speeches and parades, parties and gatherings, and – perhaps most famously – extravagant firework displays.
Let's celebrate this important day by a look back at the past!
INDEPENDENCE DAY TIMELINE
+ 1763–1773: A Taxing Time
Britain’s King George III subjects colonial America to harsh taxes and laws, which benefits the Crown, not the colonists.
+ 1765: Stamp Act
British Parliament's so-called Stamp Act taxes the colonists on any piece of printed paper including newspapers, legal documents, ships’ papers, and even playing cards.
+ 1770: Shots Heard
British soldiers fire shots that kill 47-year-old Crispus Attucks, the first American and black man to die along with three other colonists in the Boston Massacre.
+ 1773: Boston Tea Party
Disguised colonists take over a British ship and dump all the British tea overboard to avoid paying the taxes for it.
+ July 4, 1776: Declaration of Independence
After spending two days on revisions, the Continental Congress approves the historical document's final wording.
+ 1941: Declaration of a Holiday
Independence Day becomes a federal holiday.
+ 1950: Establishing Independence Day Traditions
Barbecues, parades, flag-raising ceremonies, and fireworks become the norm on Independence Day.
+ 1976: Bicentennial
Americans celebrate the country's 200th birthday — the U.S. Mint issues a special Bicentennial quarter — with new designs featuring all 50 states.
THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE WAS NOT OFFICIALLY SIGNED ON JULY 4
On April 19, 1775, during the Battles of Lexington and Concord (Mass.), the first shots were fired between colonists and British troops, starting the American Revolution. After these first military conflicts, the tension between Britain and her American colonists continued to mount.
Finally, on July 2, 1776, the Second Continental Congress voted for independence from Britain. Two days later, on July 4, Congress approved the final draft of the Declaration of Independence, which had been written by Thomas Jefferson and edited by John Adams and Benjamin Franklin.
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On July 8, the first public reading of the Declaration took place at the Pennsylvania State House (now Independence Hall) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Later that same day, other readings occurred in Trenton, New Jersey, and Easton, Pennsylvania.
Printer John Dunlap made about 200 copies of the Declaration, with the date of July 4. Known as the “Dunlap Broadsides,” these were distributed throughout the 13 colonies.
However, it wasn’t until August 2, 1776, that the Declaration was officially signed. John Hancock, president of the Congress, was the first of 56 delegates who signed this enlarged version, writing in big, bold letters.
On August 4, 1776, after delegates of the Continental Congress had signed the document, the Declaration of Independence was made official.
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HOW DID OUR FOUNDERS ENVISION INDEPENDENCE DAY CELEBRATIONS?
John Adams considered July 2 to be the day when Americans actually declared their independence.
He envisioned the celebration to be one filled with fun, games, and fireworks—not an occasion for displaying military strength (as one might expect). On July 3, 1776, he wrote these words to his wife Abigail, capturing the spirit of the times:
“Yesterday the greatest Question was decided, whichever was debated in America, and a greater, perhaps, never was or will be decided among Men. A Resolution was passed without one dissenting Colony ‘that these united Colonies are, and of right ought to be free and independent States, and as such, they have, and of Right ought to have full Power to make War, conclude Peace, establish Commerce, and to do all the other Acts and Things, which other States might rightfully do…’
The second day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival…. It ought to 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 forevermore.”
On July 18, 1777, an issue of the Virginia Gazette describes the July 4 celebration in Philadelphia:
|“The evening was closed with the ringing of bells, and at night there was a grand exhibition of fireworks, which began and concluded with thirteen rockets on the commons, and the city was beautifully illuminated. Everything was conducted with the greatest order and decorum, and the face of joy and gladness was universal.”|
What’s really special about America’s celebration of freedom is it was quite different for its time, focusing on the joys of freedom. Many countries have emulated this spirit of celebration ever since.
4TH OF JULY TRIVIA
While we celebrate with fireworks, let’s not forget the freedom that our founding fathers declared to the world over two centuries ago. Here are some fun facts you may not know about the holiday:
Q. Why is the name “John Hancock” synonymous with “your signature”?
Hancock’s bold signature on the Declaration of Independence dwarfed the signatures of the other signers. Legend says that Hancock wanted the king of England to see the rebellious signature without having to wear his spectacles!
Q. When did America actually declare independence?
Congress ruled in favor of independence on July 2, 1776. Two days later, on July 4, Congress accepted Jefferson’s declaration document. Nonetheless, John Adams thought July 2 should be Independence Day.
Q. How many people signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4?
Only two men signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776—John Hancock, president of the Congress, and Charles Thompson, secretary of the Congress.
Q. On what day did most people sign the Declaration of Independence?
August 2, 1776.
Q. When did Independence Day become a national holiday?
The Fourth of July was not declared a federal holiday until 1938!
Q. Is anything written on the back of the Declaration of Independence?
Yes, but not a treasure map like a certain favorite film suggests! The message “Original Declaration of Independence dated 4th July 1776” is written upside down on the back of the Declaration of Independence.
Q. Where is the Declaration of Independence document today?
Thomas Jefferson’s original draft was lost and the one eventually signed is the “engrossed” document. It is kept at the National Archives in Washington, D.C., for all to see.
Of the 200 printed copies of the Declaration made by John Dunlap (the Dunlap Broadsides), only 27 are accounted for. One of these was found in the back of a picture frame at a tag sale and sold at auction for $8.14 million to television producer Norman Lear in 2000. It traveled the country on display to the public for ten years.
Q. Where was George Washington when the Declaration of Independence was written?
In July 1776, Washington was in New York with his troops. On July 9, he received his copy of the Declaration with a note from John Hancock telling Washington to share the news with his soldiers. The men were so excited that they rushed over to the Bowling Green and tore down the statue of King George III. Shortly after this, the British, as Washington expected, attacked the colonists and the American Revolution was under way. The colonists fought eight long, hard years (1775–83) for independence from Britain.
After the war, George Washington hoped to retire and return to Mount Vernon, Virginia. Instead, in 1789, the electors unanimously voted him in as the first president of the United States. Because it was such an honor, and he felt a great duty to his country, he accepted. He departed Mount Vernon on April 16 and arrived in New York City on April 30 for his inauguration. As he took his oath standing on the balcony of Federal Hall, the crowd broke into cheers. The members of his first Cabinet included Thomas Jefferson as secretary of state and Alexander Hamilton as secretary of the treasury.
THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE
The Declaration of Independence is one of the most important documents in the history of the United States. It was an official act taken by all 13 American colonies in declaring independence from British rule.
|Photo: Official Holidays|
The document was originally written by Thomas Jefferson, but Benjamin Franklin and John Adams, along with Jefferson then worked together to make changes. The final draft of the Declaration of Independence was adopted on July 4, 1776, but the actual signing of the final document took place on August 2, 1776.
|"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."|
We invite you to refresh your memory as an annual tradition. Read a transcription of the complete text of the Declaration at www.archives.gov.
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