Believe it or not, there’s more to the 4th of July than beer, hot dogs, parades and fireworks. We all know the holiday commemorates the birth of the United States of America as an independent nation, but here are a few fascinating 4th of July facts you can add to your arsenal in case your backyard barbecue celebration includes an epic patriotic trivia battle:
- America’s resolution of independence was actually approved in a closed session of Congress on July 2, 1776. The next day, John Adams wrote the following in a letter to his wife Abigail: “The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty.”
- Fifty years after signing the Declaration of Independence, political rivals and former presidents John Adams and Thomas Jefferson died within hours of each other on July 4, 1826. Another former president, James Monroe, died on July 4, 1831. The country’s 30th president, Calvin Coolidge, was born on Independence Day in 1872.
- One of the first patriotic displays of fireworks was in 1777, a year after the Declaration was signed, when Americans placed lit candles on their windowsills to show their love of country. A bare windowsill was a sign that the person was still loyal to the English crown.
- Barbecue is king on Independence Day. Americans grill approximately 150 million hot dogs and 700 million pounds of chicken on July 4th.
- While July 4, 1776 is remembered as the day that started America, July 1st, 2nd and 3rd are remembered as the days that saved America. The Battle of Gettysburg took place July 1-3, 1863, making July 1-4 the most remembered and respected days in our nation’s history.
- A great American tradition is the annual July 4th Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest at Coney Island, NY. Myths of its origins date back to 1916 when four immigrants in New York began arguing about who was the most patriotic. To settle the dispute they held a hot dog eating contest. Thus (according to legend) began Nathan's famous hot dog eating contests that continues to this day.
- Where did the Declaration of Independence spend World War II? Two weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor, our nation’s most prized document was moved by train in 150 pounds of protective gear to Fort Knox, and was returned to Washington, D.C., in 1944.
- To avoid further cracking it, the Liberty Bell has not been rung since 1846. Every 4th of July it is symbolically tapped 13 times.
- Burgers and hot dogs have become an American tradition on Independence Day, but it wasn’t always this way. According to legend, on July 4, 1776, John Adams and his wife, Abigail, enjoyed a meal of turtle soup, New England poached salmon with egg sauce, green peas and boiled new potatoes. They followed the meal with Apple Pandowdy. Yum.
- Although the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence has been celebrated since 1777, the 4th of July wasn't referred to as Independence Day until 1791 and wasn’t declared a national holiday until 1941. Happy birthday, America!
Have a safe and Happy 4th of July