Although we celebrate independence from Great Britain on July 4, the Continental Congress actually declared the United States free on July 2, 1776. The fourth was the day that Congress sent the approved Declaration of Independence to printer John Dunlap to make 200 copies, according to constitutioncenter.com. The Fourth of July wasn’t made a federal holiday until June 28, 1870.
The holiday is more than just a day off from work. It is a time for the nation to come together and celebrate all that we are and all that we have been. Here are a few additional facts – both fun and historical — about the day.
1. Great Britain didn’t get a copy of the Declaration of Independence until November 1776, and the Revolutionary War fighting didn’t actually end until September 3, 1783 when the Treaty of Paris was signed.
2. Americans will consume 150 million hot dogs on the Fourth of July according to hot-dogs.com. And according to a YouGov survey, the most popular condiment for hot dogs is mustard (72%) followed by ketchup (59%), onions (51%) and relish (47%).
3. An African American was the most successful Revolutionary War spy. According to battlefields.org, James Armistead Lafayette played the role of a runaway slave to gain access to General Cornwallis’s headquarters. As a result, Armistead accomplished what few spies could, he got direct access to the center of the British War Department.
4. A 16-year-old boy designed the updated American flag when Alaska and Hawaii joined the Union. In 1958, Robert G. Heft sewed together a design for the new flag as a history class assignment. He was given a B- for his effort. He challenged the grade, according to Hocking College’s website, by sending it to Washington D.C. to be considered by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Once the flag was selected, Heft’s grade was rightfully changed to an A. His design became the official flag in 1960.
5. Celebratory fireworks date back to 1777. Hocking College website notes that, “Americans spend more than $1 billion on fireworks each year. Out of this, only 10% of firework displays are set off professionally, which probably accounts for the estimated 12,900 firework-related emergency room visits across the country.”
6. History.com notes that, “Thomas Jefferson, 82, and John Adams, 90, both died on July 4, 1826… the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.”
7. Although they were still fighting the Revolutionary War, American troops celebrated Independence Day one year after the Declaration of Independence with an extra ration of rum, according to Hocking College’s website. And we still toast the holiday, with $1 billion dollars-worth of beer, according to cnbc.com.
8. Hamilton was not the first play to teach history about the country’s Founding Fathers. In fact, 1776 was written by a former history teacher about the creation and signing of the Declaration of Independence. It opened during the Vietnam War and was expected to fail due to the tensions of the war, but it was instead a massive success.
9. Since the 1930s, Bend, Oregon has celebrated 4th of July with an annual Pet Parade. Mentalfloss.com reports that the parade, “…has included everything from horses, dogs, and goats to badgers, chickens, and baby coyotes. Some kids wear costumes and bring stuffed animals in lieu of a real animal.”
10. Fourth of July sales began after the Civil War, when merchants and restaurants began opening on that day to sell items that were red, white and blue, according to goodhouskeeping.com.