How old is the United States?
How old is the United States?

The simple answer is that as of the 4th of July 2022, the United States is 246 years old. It’s 246-years-old because the Declaration of Independence was ratified by the US Second Continental Congress on July 4, 1776.

How Old Is The United States?

The United States of America, the world’s third or fourth-largest country by area and the most developed economy celebrate its birthday (otherwise known as Independence Day) on July 4 every year.

However, amidst the fireworks and all sorts of celebrations to mark this day, many people often ask just how old the country is. For most people, all they want to know is America’s age since attaining independence from the European colonizer. For others, they want to know how long America has been occupied.

According to the America’s history, the founding fathers signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, making the country 246 years old as of July 4, 2022.

However, Native Americans have occupied the area that later became the US for at least 12,000 years.

The United States: Earliest Settlement

he Second Continental Congress debating the Declaration of Independence. Photo: Shutterstock
he Second Continental Congress debating the Declaration of Independence. Photo: Shutterstock

Although the US is 245 years old as of 2021, the country has existed for more than 2.5 centuries. The first Native Americans migrated to North America long before the Declaration of Independence. According to most historians, the first indigenous people settled in the area at least 15,000 BC, although the migration to the area could have happened as early as 30,000 years ago. The first indigenous people used the Bering land bridge to move from Eurasia to North America until 10,000 years ago when the land bridge submerged.

Paleoamericans were the first Native Americans to arrive and settle in North America and were later joined by ancestors of several present-day tribes, including Aleuts, Athabaskans, and Eskimos. Over time, the indigenous people developed distinct cultures and spread throughout the area until Christopher Columbus’ arrival in the 15th century, marking the beginning of European colonization.

History of America - Independence Day

The question, “How old is America?” could have several answers.

The first answer refers back to when the indigenous people first settled the land that is now known as America. The second answer refers to when America gained its freedom from the British and became known as the United States of America. The United States of America was founded in 1776, making the country 243 years old as of 2019.

The earliest history of what is now America occurred when the land was settled by indigenous people before 15,000 B.C. It is not known exactly when it was first settled, but it is believed that people migrated rom Eurasia through the Beringia land bridge before settling throughout the Americas. It is believed that this settlement could have begun as many as 30,000 years ago. Migration is thought to have continued through the land bridge until about 10,000 years ago when it was submerged by rising sea levels.

The original inhabitants were known as Paleoamericans and were part of hundreds of nations and tribes. As time passed, the Native Americans continued to inhabitant the land and many distinct cultures were formed. This continued through the 15th century, which brought Christopher Columbus to the land and marked the beginning of European colonization.

However, it wasn’t until after European exploration when the first English settlement was established in the early 17th century. During this time, Europeans brought over many things to the Americas, including horses and cattle. They also brought back goods from America including potatoes, tobacco and other crops. Early settlers and explorers died after being exposed to diseases of the Americas. However, things were worse for the Native Americans, who were exposed to Eurasian diseases and died in large numbers.

The first successful colony was Jamestown, which was established in what is now Virginia. Throughout these early years, the thirteen colonies were established. The Georgia Colony was the last to be established in 1733.

Artist Impression of the settlement of Jamestown. Photo: Getty Images
Artist Impression of the settlement of Jamestown. Photo: Getty Images

It was in the last 18th century when the colonies launched the American Revolution. This was a rebellion against the British. Prior to the American Revolution, tensions were growing between the colonists and the British, primarily over the British’s imposition of more taxes and exercising more control. One year after the rebellion began, the colonies declared themselves independent of Britain and named themselves the United States of America.

The Revolutionary War continued on through 1783. However, the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776 was the day that the United States of America came to be. This is why Independence Day is celebrated every year on July 4, in celebration of the birth of America.

9 other potential birthdays and ages for the United States of America

Birthday 1. The Formation of a Continent (200 million years old)

If you believe the age of the United States should be counted from when the North American landmass first separated from the rest of the surrounding world, the US would be celebrating it’s 200 millionth birthday!

Good luck trying to find a Hallmark card for that one…

It separated from a landmass known as Laurentia (Lauren, to her friends) which also contained Eurasia, around 200 million years ago.

Birthday 2. The Arrival of the Native Americans (15,000-40,000 years old)

If you believe the age of the United States should be counted from when the Native Americans first set foot on the North American continent, then the age of the United States is somewhere between 15,000 and 40,000-years-old.

It’s believed the first Native Americans arrived between 13,000 B.C.E and 38,000 B.C.E via a land bridge connecting North America to Siberia. Hallmark still isn’t coming to the party on this one, but I’d LOVE to see a birthday cake stacked with 13,000+ candles!

Birthday 3. The Arrival of Christopher Columbus (528 years old)

If you believe the age of the United States should be counted from when Christopher Columbus ‘discovered’ America, landing on the ‘uninhabited’ (if you don’t count the somewhere between 8 million and 112 million Native Americans) shores of North America, then the United States is 528 years old.

He set sail on the evening of August 3, 1492, in three ships: the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria. It took roughly 10 weeks to find the Americas, and on October 12, 1492, he set foot in the Bahamas with a group of sailors from the Santa Maria.

However, given the ugly events of the next few years surrounding European colonization in the Americas, celebrating this date as America’s birthday has fallen largely out of favor. In fact, in many places in the United States, people have stopped celebrating the anniversary of Columbus’ arrival to the America’s because of a better understanding of the impact this had on indigenous populations.

Birthday 4. The First Settlement (434 years old)

If you believe the age of the United States should be counted from when the first settlement was established, then the United States is 434 years old.

The first settlement was established on Roanoke Island in 1587, however, all was not well. The harsh conditions and lack of supplies meant that by the time some of the original settlers arrived back on the island with supplies in 1590, the settlement appeared to be completely abandoned with no sign of the original inhabitants.

Birthday 5. The First SUCCESSFUL Settlement (412 years old)

If you believe the age of the United States should be counted from when the first successful settlement was established, then the age of the United States is 412 years old.

The failure of Roanoke Island didn’t deter the British. In a joint venture with the Virginia Company, they established a second settlement at Jamestown in 1609. Once again, the harsh conditions, aggressive natives, and lack of supplies made life on the continental US very tough (they even resorted to cannibalism to survive at one point), but the settlement was ultimately successful.

Birthday 6. The Articles of Confederation (240 years old)

If you believe the age of the United States should be counted from the Articles of Confederation were ratified, then the United States is 240-years-old.

The Articles of Confederation laid the framework for how the states were to operate in their ‘League of Friendship’ (their words, not mine) and were the guiding principles behind the decision-making process of Congress.

Birthday 7. The Ratification of the Constitution (233 years old)

If you believe the age of the United States should be counted from when the constitution, then the age of the United States is 233-years-old.

The Constitution was finally ratified by the ninth state (New Hampshire – holding everyone back…) on 21 June 1788 and came into force 1789. In its 7 articles, it embodies the doctrine of the separation of powers, the concepts of federalism, and the process of ratification. It’s been amended 27 times to help a growing nation accommodate the changing needs of an ever-expanding population.

Birthday 8. The End of the Civil War (156 years old)

The USS Fort Jackson – the location where surrender papers were signed by Kirby Smith on June 2nd, 1865, marking the end of the US Civil War

If you believe the age of the United States should be counted from the end of the Civil War, then the United States is only 156 years old!

During the Civil War, the Union ceased to exist as the southern states seceded. It wasn’t reformed until the end of the Civil War in June 1865.

I mean, if you get divorced and remarried, you don’t count your wedding anniversary from when you were first married, do you? So why would you do that with a country?

Birthday 9. The First McDonalds (66 years old)

If we’re going to play fun hypotheticals, then lets at least have some fun with it.

One of the significant contributions the United States has made to world culture is the invention of fast food (you can argue about its merits, but you can’t deny its impact). Of all the fast-food chains, the most iconic is MacDonalds.

A new restaurant opens every 14.5 hours and the company feeds 68 million people PER DAY – which is larger than the population of Great Britain, France, and South Africa, and more than double the population of Australia.

Given the significant role this American icon has played in shaping the culinary habits of the world, an argument could be made (not a good argument, but an argument nonetheless) that you should count America’s age from the opening of the first MacDonalds store.

How old is America compared to the rest of the world?

Photo: World is a Village
Photo: World is a Village

America has the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia and the Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts, but the pyramids of Egypt, the Great Wall of China and the Coliseum of Rome are certainly older than any historic landmarks that the United States can claim.

Most historians cite the formal age of the U.S. to be 243 years old this year, if using the date based on the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. If you base America’s age on the presence of Native Americans, that date could reach back 527 years — still a “babe” in comparison to other countries.

These countries are considered to be the world’s oldest:

San Marino

By many accounts, The Republic of San Marino, one of the world’s smallest countries, is the world’s oldest country. Completely surrounded by Italy, San Marino was founded on Sept. 3 in the year 301 BC. However, the nation wasn’t recognized as independent until 1631 AD by the pope, who at that time controlled much of central Italy politically. San Marino’s constitution is the world’s oldest, first written in the year 1600.

Japan

Japanese history cites that the country’s first emperor, Emperor Jimmu, founded Japan in 660 BC. However, it wasn’t until at least the eighth century AD that Japanese culture and Buddhism spread across the islands. Over its long history, Japan has had many different types of governments and leaders. While the country celebrates 660 BC as the year of its founding, it wasn’t until the Meiji Restoration of 1868 that modern Japan emerged.

China

The first recorded dynasty in Chinese history existed more than 3,500 years ago when the feudal Shang dynasty ruled from the 17th century BC to the 11th century BC. However, China celebrates 221 BC as the founding of the modern country, the year Qin Shi Huang proclaimed himself the first emperor of China.

In the third century AD, the Han dynasty unified Chinese culture and tradition. In the 13th century, the Mongols invaded China, decimating the population and culture. China’s Qing Dynasty was overthrown during a revolution in 1912, leading to the creation of the Republic of China.

However, in 1949 the Republic of China itself was overthrown by Mao Tse Tung’s Communist rebels, and the People’s Republic of China was created, still existing today.

What about modern countries?

Modern countries such as Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Greece, and India bear little resemblance to their ancient counterparts. All of these countries except Iran trace their modern roots only as far back as the 19th century. Iran traces its modern independence to 1501, with the founding of the Shia Islamic state.

Other countries that consider their founding to be prior to Iran’s include:

• France (843 AD)

• Austria (976 AD)

• Hungary (1001 AD)

• Portugal (1143 AD)

• Mongolia (1206 AD)

• Thailand (1238 AD)

• Andorra (1278 AD)

• Switzerland (1291 AD)

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