Every year on July 4, Americans celebrate Independence Day with parades, cookouts, concerts and fireworks displays. This national holiday marks the date in 1776 when the Founding Fathers first declared their independence from England, and the rest, as they say, is history. Here are a few fun facts about Independence Day.
Historical fun facts
Betsy Ross is believed to have sewn the first American flag in May or June of 1776. She was commissioned to undertake the flag-sewing project by the Congressional Committee.
The first draft of the Declaration of Independence was presented by drafting committee member, Thomas Jefferson, on June 28, 1776. Other members of the committee were John Adams, Roger Sherman, Benjamin Franklin and Philip Livingston.
On July 4 of that year, the Declaration of Independence was approved by the Second Continental Congress. However, the 56 signatories did not execute the landmark document at the same time, nor did they all sign the document on July 4. Instead, the most prolific signing date occurred the following month on August 2, when 50 men endorsed it.
John Hancock was the first and only party to execute the Declaration on July 4, 1776, and he did so in his role as President of the Second Continental Congress. The final signer was Thomas McKean in January 1777.
The names of the Declaration’s signers were kept secret from the public for more than six months to protect their identities. If the U.S. had not won independence, the signers would have been declared traitors and put to death under English law.
Today, the original Declaration document is on display at the National Archives and Records Administration in the nation’s capital.
Early Independence Day observance
On July 8, 1776, the first Independence Day celebrations occurred in Philadelphia. The Liberty Bell rang from Independence Hall’s tower on that date. The purpose of the bell ringing was to summon the public to assemble and hear the first reading of the Declaration. Colonel John Nixon performed that momentous reading.
It was not until 1804 that the White House celebrated the first public Independence Day event. In 1941, Congress formally declared July 4 a federal holiday.
Independence Day celebrations today
Launched in 1785, the Fourth of July Celebration in Bristol, R.I., is said to be the oldest and longest-running in the U.S.
The Macy's 4th of July Fireworks display in New York is marking its 35th year in 2012. Millions gather every year to watch the display, which includes more than 40,000 shells that light up the sky over the Hudson River. The event is accompanied by musical performances and televised nationwide.
The White House observes July 4 every year by hosting events that can include anything from a barbecue and USO show in honor of veterans and troops, to kids' activities and fireworks.
However you decide to honor the nation's birthday this year, these are just a few Independence Day fun facts to share with family and friends at your special gathering.