4th of July Fun Facts
(shamelessly stolen from MSN Living)
The first public recognition of American independence was in Philadelphia on July 8, 1776, just a few days after Congress declared the nation’s independence from Great Britain. The Liberty Bell sounded from the tower of Independence Hall, summoning people to the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence by Colonel John Nixon. Even though Congress had adopted the Declaration on July 4, it was not publicly announced until July 8, after the document came back from the printer.
It’s a sign
The 56 patriots who signed the Declaration of Independence did not place their names on the document on July 4, 1776, nor did they all sign at the same time. The official signing event was on August 2, 1776, when 50 of the men signed it. The others signed at various times over the next few months.
Patriotism or treason?
The names of the men who signed the Declaration of Independence were not made public right away in an effort to protect the signers in case things went badly for the new nation. If the cause of independence had failed, their signatures on the Declaration would have marked them as traitors to Great Britain. According to British law at the time, that act of treason would have cost them their lives.
The first annual commemoration of American independence occurred on July 4, 1777, in Philadelphia while Americans were still at war with the British, fighting to hold onto the liberty they had declared for themselves a year earlier.
Making it official
The Fourth of July was not a federal holiday until 1941. Although July 4 had long been celebrated as the Independence Day holiday by tradition, and even by congressional decree, it was not officially a federal holiday until Congress agreed to give federal employees the day off with pay—and that didn’t happen until 1941.
John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, who had been leaders in the American Revolution and U.S. presidents as well as personal friends and political adversaries throughout much of their long lives, died on the same day, July 4, 1826. Their deaths came exactly 50 years after the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, which Jefferson had drafted and both men signed.
As Adams was near death on the evening of July 4, 1826, his last words were reported to be, “Thomas Jefferson still survives.” Sadly, Adams was mistaken. Jefferson had died approximately five hours earlier.
The death of James Monroe
Like Adams and Jefferson before him, James Monroe died on Independence Day. Monroe died on July 4, 1831, just five years after Adams and Jefferson, the third U.S. president to die on the nation’s birthday.
Monroe was the fifth president of the United States and was the last U.S. president who was considered one of the nation’s Founding Fathers, because of his service as an officer in the Continental Army during the American Revolution.
Although three U.S. presidents (John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe) died on July 4, only one was born on Independence Day. Calvin Coolidge, the 30th president of the United States, was born on July 4, 1872 in Vermont—the only U.S. president to share a birthday with the country he governed.
More firsts on the Fourth
The first public Fourth of July event at the White House occurred in 1804, when Thomas Jefferson was president.
The first Independence Day celebration west of the Mississippi also occurred during Jefferson’s presidency; it took place at Independence Creek and was celebrated by Lewis and Clark in 1805 while they were exploring the territory Jefferson had acquired from France with the Louisiana Purchase.
In 1778, John Adams and Benjamin Franklin went to Paris in an effort to gain French support for the United States in its war of independence against Great Britain. On July 4, they hosted the first American Independence Day celebration in Europe, with a dinner for “the American Gentlemen and ladies, in and about Paris,” according to an excerpt from the “Diary and Autobiography of John Adams.”