CHARLOTTE, NC. Summer in America hits its peak on the 4th of July. Hot dogs, burgers, lavish picnics, parades, and fireworks show up on every menu as the order of the day. This truly American holiday celebrates America’s birthday in a way that uniquely belongs to us.
With those thoughts in mind, Myth Trivia looks at some of the lesser-known facts about America’s birthday.
The Declaration of Independence: Back in the day of the City of Brotherly Love
We begin in Philadelphia where America’s first patriots signed the Declaration of Independence and, somewhat later, the Constitution. The latter document actually brought these United States into official existence. The Founding Fathers ratified it little more than eleven years after the 13 original colonies unified into a country on the Fourth of July 1776, signing the original Constitution in September of 1787.
An interesting tidbit. Although we officially recognize the 4th of July as Independence Day we note that, oddly enough, John Hancock was the only member of the Continental Congress to formally sign the Declaration on July 4th, 1776.
In fact, most of the signers did not formally endorse the document until a month later on August 2.
More Constitutional Administrivia
Even though the Declaration was dated July 4, the Continental Congress actually voted for independence on July 2, 1776. So we could conceivably celebratethe nation’s birthday on the Second of July instead of the Fourth.
An interesting quirk of history. When July 4th fell on a Sunday in 1779, America celebrated its observance of Independence Day on the Fifth instead. That made America’s birthday a movable feast. At least for awhile.
Philadelphia also claims the honor of being the home of the first 4th of July fireworks show. It took place in 1777. As part of the festivities, the city even staged a parade and a banquet to honor our first year of freedom and liberty.
Today, more than 14,000 firework displays explode across the country on America’s Birthday
If most people believe that cities like New York, Washington, Boston, Chicago or Philadelphia offer the most spectacular displays of pyrotechnics in the United States. But America’s best-kept fireworks secret? The biggest sky-show in the U. S. doesn’t belong to a city at all. Rather, that trophy goes to a department store.
Macy’s in the “Big Apple,” otherwise known as New York City, boasts the most firepower in the country. Their explosive light show takes more than 8,000 man-hours to prepare. You can watch the fireworks on the big screen at home while enjoying grilled leftovers and that last cold one of the evening. You can start your diet tomorrow.
Hats off to America!
General George Washington endeared himself to his troops on the second anniversary of our independence. How? He allowed them a double ration of rum.
Nicholas Cage tells us in the 2004 movie National Treasure that the back of the Declaration contains a treasure map with encrypted instructions from the founding fathers, written in invisible ink.
While that tale was factually untrue, the message, “Original Declaration of Independence dated 4th July 1776” does appear across the bottom of the signed document. Whoever added this wrote it upside-down across the bottom of the signed document. But no one knows who exactly wrote this phrase or when it happened. During the Revolutionary War, however, patriots frequently rolled up the parchment for transport. Historians believe that someone added the mystery text as a label.
All the news that’s fit to print?
By the way, printer John Dunlap printed multiple copies of the Declaration at his print shop on July 5. Known as “Dunlap broadsides,” Dunlap and others dispatched them across the 13 colonies. Copies went to newspapers, local officials and commanders of the Continental troops. This action actually predates the official version signed by the delegates.
Of the hundreds of printed copies of the original document, only 26 copies survive today. Museums and library collections house most of them. But private investors managed to snag three.
“Yankee Doodle” was a pre-Revolutionary War song originally sung by British military officers to mock the disheveled, disorganized colonial “Yankees” with whom they served in the French and Indian War.
British troops sang it to make fun of their stereotype of the American soldier. They viewed him as a “Yankee simpleton” who thought that he was stylish if he just “stuck a feather in his cap.” The song later became popular among the Americans. But they sang it as a song of defiance. So, by 1781, “Yankee Doodle” those uncouth Yankees manaed to transform this insulting song into a musical badge of America’s national pride.
Dead Presidents. And live ones.
Three United States presidents died on the Fourth of July: John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe. But Calvin Coolidge was the only president born on America’s Birthday.
Bristol, Rhode Island serves as home to the world’s oldest Independence Day celebration. This one dates back to 1785. Although four years earlier, in 1781, Massachusetts became the first state to declare Independence Day a holiday. But it wasn’t until 1804 that the White House held its first Fourth of July party.
However, it took nearly 100 years for the Federal government to formally recognize the 4th as a Federal holiday. That occurred when the President and Congress enacted the first Federal holiday legislation in 1870. The new law was the first to declare official national holidays for federal workers.
Fun fact. July 4th is also a holiday in the Philippines. That’s because in 1946, it, too, was recognized as an independent nation.
Americans consume around 150 million hot dogs on the Fourth of July. No one knows if that statistic includes the hot dogs consumed during the annual Nathan’s Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest.
It always rings in Philadelphia
One final note: In Philadelphia, the Liberty Bell rings 13 times every Independence Day to honor the 13 original states. Descendants of people who signed the Declaration of Independence tap the bell (carefully) at 2 p.m. eastern time every 4th of July.
About the Author:
Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor is an award-winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe.
Taylor is the founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
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