The oldest continuous Independence Day celebration in the U.S. began in Bristol, Rhode Island
in 1785 when the Rev. Henry Wight, a veteran of the Revolutionary War, conducted the first "Patriotic Exercises". Today, about 100,000 visitors are expected to turn out to watch the 2.5 mile, ninety minute parade featuring four Colonial-style militia groups, six drum corps, and thirteen marching bands from as far away as Oregon and Minnesota.
2) CHIPS OR FRIES?
Eight of the 56 signers
of the Declaration of Independence were British born. (Profession-wise, there were twenty lawyers, thirteen merchants, eight farmers, four physicians, and one minister. Edward Rutledge, 26, was the youngest signer; Ben Franklin, 70, the eldest.)
3) OTHER THAN THAT, MR. PRESIDENT…
Three presidents met their maker on Independence Day: John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe. Adams and Jefferson expired within hours
of each other on July 4, 1826, 50 years to the day after the Declaration of Independence was approved. Monroe died in 1831.
4) BOOM SHAKA-LAKA
In the 1800s, Independence Day celebrations often featured all day booming artillery salutes using explosives left over from the various wars. The practice largely faded as cannons went out of style. (Except here
… and here
… and here
5) DON'T RING THE BELL
We all know the famous story: On July 4th, 1776, that iconic symbol of U.S. independence - The Liberty Bell - was joyously rung until it cracked!
Sorry. Never happened. (And the crack? Much later; poor design.)
But even though the famous bell hasn’t been rung since 1846, it is symbolically “tapped” 13 times every 4th in honor of the 13 original colonies. So there is that.
1934 - Never one to say "I don't think so", famed polar explorer Admiral Richard E. Byrd
celebrates Independence Day at his base “Little America” in Antarctica. He and his men light up the sky with fireworks... in a raging storm... at 33 degrees below zero.
No word on how the barbecue went.
Over 155 million hot dogs are wolfed down across the USA every July 4th. Not surprisingly, it’s the biggest hot dog day of the year. (Second biggest? July 5th. Smallest? July 6th.)
8) LAST CALL FOR MAIL
1884 - Swan City, Colorado. Furious miners blow up the local Post Office because they were not adequately supplied with July 4th fireworks. (On the other hand, it seems they were overly supplied with explosives. And liquor.)
9) GOOD HUSBAND. (LOUSY TIMING.)
“That these united colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British crown; and that all political connexion between them and the state of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved... Let this happy day give birth to an American republic.”
These are the words of delegate Richard Henry Lee of Virginia
, motioning to cut ties with Britain in June 1776 at the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia. As it was his proposal, Lee likely would have chaired the committee drafting the proposed Declaration of Independence... save for the fact that he returned home to care for his sick wife before his motion was ultimately approved and the famous document written up.
His replacement? Some guy named Thomas Jefferson.
10) HAPPY SECOND OF JULY!
It coulda been a contender. Indeed, in a July 3rd letter to his wife Abigail, delegate John Adams wrote:
“The second day of July, 1776, will be memorable epocha in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations, as the great Anniversary Festival.”
Except, not so much.
Adams faith in July 2nd stemmed from the fact that it was the day -- the actual day -- the Continental Congress voted "Aye" for independence. The famed written declaration of that vote wasn't entirely finished until the morning of July 4th, and on that day... the delegates merely ratified it. Then went out to make merry.
Furthermore, most attendees didn't even sign the document until August 2nd, after it was engrossed on parchment by fellow delegate Timothy Matlack -- a Philadelphia beer bottler known for his lovely penmanship.
No matter. In the years following, the importance of July 2nd was duly forgotten and Americans have celebrated Independence Day on July 4th ever since. And even though the future President Adams got the date “wrong”, it must be noted that the rest of his vision for the festivities was spot-on:
“It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews [Shows], Games, Sports... Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.”
And here at Firecracker, and wherever friends, families & neighbors gather on this 239th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence...
… that it is.