CHARLOTTE, N.C., July 1, 2015 – Today’s trivia begins a new month and takes place just before the 239th birthday of our great nation. In tribute, we present some interesting tidbits about the founding of our beloved country.
1 – When was the Declaration of Independence signed?: Must be a trick question, right? Everyone knows it was the Fourth of July, 1776. Or was it?
The truth is that independence was formally declared on July 2, 1776, but the Second Continental Congress kept “editing” the document for a couple more days, making the official approval on the fourth.
Though 56 signatures appear on the final document, historians agree that it was physically impossible for all of them to have been penned on July 4. Some of the signers were not even in Philadelphia on that day and several others were not even elected until after the fourth.
A few historians have even suggested that no one signed the Declaration on the fourth. However, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and others who later wrote about the historic event dispute that statement. John Hancock, who was the president of the Continental Congress, almost certainly signed on the fourth, as did a number of others.
The remainder of the signatures were added sometime within the month of July between the 4th and Aug. 2. One may have even been written as late as November, but there is no conclusive proof for that story.
Suffice it to say, the Declaration of Independence was ultimately endorsed by the appropriate people and, as far as we are concerned, the Fourth of July is the national day of celebration of the founding of the United States of America.
2 – The Song “America” never mentions America: Every now and then a minor controversy arises over whether “The Star Spangled Banner” should be our national anthem.
Some people believe it should be “God Bless America” while others want it to be “America the Beautiful.” Still others think it should be “America,” with lyrics that were written in 1832 by Baptist minister, the Rev. Samuel F. Smith.
Every school child in the United States can recite the first stanza of the song, which starts, “My country, ‘tis of Thee, Sweet Land of Liberty, Of Thee I sing.”
Smith wrote eight verses to the song, of which most people only know the first.
The interesting bit of trivial knowledge is that the word “America” is never mentioned in the entire song, except for its title.
Just in case that concerns you, the official national anthem written by Francis Scott Key in 1814 contains four verses, and it doesn’t mention America either. On the other hand, it is called “The Star Spangled Banner,” which is clearly referenced in the song.
Unless, of course, it is sung by Roseanne Barr.
3 – And now for some fireworks: Let’s face it, the Fourth of July without fireworks is as bad as celebrating America’s day without hot dogs or a three-legged race. So what could be controversial about the national birthday without red, white and blue explosions “bursting in air”?
Well, it is hardly a controversy, but even though fireworks were authorized for the celebration on July 4, 1777, there were no blue explosions to “ooohhh” and “aaahhh” about on that day.
That’s because it has only been relatively recently that the technology has existed to make a decent color of blue in fireworks. The Chinese originated the idea of fireworks well over 1,000 years ago, but even they had trouble making the color blue.
Apparently the problem lies in the chemistry lab. Blue is created by burning copper chloride or other compounds which incorporate copper. Unfortunately, such materials are unstable under extreme temperatures.
The key is getting the temperature just right. When it is not hot enough, there is no intensity so the blue is invisible. When temps are too hot, the blue disappears.
Thus, the color blue has always been regarded as the Holy Grail of pyrotechnics. In fact, the American Chemical Society continues to pursue the elusive color in the belief that a “true blue” is still “somewhere over the rainbow” or, at the very least, on the horizon.
The big advance has come in recent years with the use of magnalium which is a magnesium-aluminum alloy. Despite modern advances in making a better blue, the truly great blue still eludes those who create fireworks.
Not to worry, because to compensate, today’s pyro-technicians have been able to create considerably more vivid versions of other colors, so the vibrancy of contemporary sky shows is far better than ever before.
Since magnalium was unknown at the first Fourth of July celebration, red and white were all they could muster. Which, of course, left our founding fathers singing “the blues.”
Bob Taylor has been traveling the world for more than 30 years as a writer and award winning television producer focusing on international events, people and cultures around the globe.
Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
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