Happy birthday, America!
Picnics, barbecues, cold drinks, and fireworks: these are just some of the staples of the Fourth of July. But without America’s Founding Fathers — George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and James Monroe — there wouldn’t be an Independence Day to celebrate.
While most Americans know that the U.S.’s birthday is celebrated on July 4, it’s not actually true that all the signers of the Declaration of Independence signed it on the Fourth of July. The Declaration was just a formal statement and explanation of the split effected on July 2, and it seems the Founding Fathers intended July 2 to be celebrated as Independence Day.
1. One of our presidents was born on July 4.
It was Calvin Coolidge, the 30th president, in 1872.
2. Three presidents have died on the Fourth of July.
They were three of the first five presidents: John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Monroe. The second president, Adams, and the third, Jefferson, both died in 1826, the 50th anniversary.
3. Not all of the Founding Fathers agreed that July Fourth is the correct day to celebrate America’s independence from Great Britain.
Adams thought July 2, the day the Second Continental Congress voted in Philadelphia to declare independence from Britain, would be the day patriots celebrated. “The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America,” Adams wrote on July 3. “It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.”
4. The Fourth of July has not always been a federal holiday.
1870 was the first year officially celebrated as a holiday. Then, in 1938, Congress reaffirmed the holiday to make sure all workers received full pay.
5. There is something written on the back of the Declaration of Independence.
It’s said the following is written upside down and backwards: “Original Declaration of Independence dated 4th July 1776.” It’s not known who wrote it, or when. In Revolutionary War years, parchment was rolled up, so this probably served as a message.
6. The Nathan’s Fourth of July Hot Dog Contest has become an annual tradition, and it began in an interesting way.
Legend has it that four immigrants got into an argument over who was most patriotic. To prove themselves, they ate as many hot dogs as they could handle — because nothing says America like excess.
7. America isn’t the only nation that celebrates the Fourth of July.
It might sound odd, but if you celebrate the Fourth of July outside the U.S., you still might see fireworks in Denmark, England, Norway, Portugal, and Sweden. This is because thousands of people emigrated to the U.S. in the early 1900s. Some European celebrations on the Fourth take place near tourist destinations — to attract U.S. travelers — or near American military bases.
8. Fireworks weren’t always used to celebrate July Fourth.
In 1777, Congress chose fireworks as a way to celebrate the first anniversary. They were ignited over Philadelphia. The celebration also included bonfires and bells.
9. Your fireworks and American flag were probably made in China.
Americans spent $3.6 million on imported American flags in 2014, $3.5 million of which came from China. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the United States imported $247.1 million worth of fireworks from China in 2014, roughly 96 percent of total U.S. fireworks imports.
In comparison, U.S. fireworks exports came in at about $12 million, of which Israel purchased $5.4 million.
Chinese goods also accounted for more than 97 percent of all U.S. imports of American flags in 2014. Americans spent $3.6 million on imported American flags that year, $3.5 million of which came from China.
Turkey was the biggest purchaser of American flags exported from the United States, spending $637,000 on the stars and stripes, or 37 percent of the total value of American flags exported by the United States.
10. The melody of the Star Spangled Banner came from the official song of an English club.
The tune that Francis Scott Key set the lyrics of the national anthem to came from “To Anacreon in Heaven,” the constitutional song of the Anacreontic Society, a London club for amateur musicians.
The club was named for the Greek poet Anacreon, who was famous for his verse about women and drinking, and the song was likely a tavern standard in colonial America.
Happy Independence Day!