This July 4th will be the 245th Independence Day, the day Americans celebrate their independence from Great Britain. Independence Day, or the Fourth of July, commemorates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. We associate this day with fireworks, parades, barbecues, baseball games, family reunions, carnivals, fairs, picnics, political speeches and ceremonies. It is considered to be the National Day of the United States. The Fourth of July weekend is typically one of the busiest travel days in the U.S.
The American flag is more responsible for our love affair with the red, white and blue color scheme than Ralph Lauren. He has almost made us believe that he created the flag for his logo, as witnessed on his clothing and home designs. It is one classic design that will never go out of style.
Flags bring up emotional feelings — some sad, some joyful, some quite meaningful, like the rainbow flag. We often use flags to announce all sorts of things: our political beliefs, a dove flag for peace, a flag with sayings, a flag to proclaim allegiance to a country perhaps because you’re living somewhere else. In Key West, I see lots of Swedish and British flags. In the 1960s, the American flag was often used as a patch on jeans, a backpack, purses, notebooks and all sorts of clothing.
Here are some interesting facts about that historic day. First of all, there is the matter of whether or not the members of Congress actually signed the paper on July 4th. It seems many historians concluded that it was signed a month later, after its adoption on Aug 4. That seems like a hard sell. Imagine if we were suddenly told that Fourth of July was now going to be Fourth of August. It’s almost as insane as the idea of Daylight Saving Time. Now there’s an archaic idea that needs reform.
And another interesting fact is that the only two signers who served as presidents, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, both died on the same day, July 4, 1826, exactly 50 years after the original signing. Another strange fact is that James Monroe, another founding father who was elected president (although not a signer of the Declaration) was the third president to also die on July 4th, though his death occurred in 1831. The only president who was born on Independence Day was Calvin Coolidge in 1872.
Other interesting facts about the day include: All capable military bases in the U.S. fire off a salute of one gun for each state, called “a salute to the nation,” at noon on Independence Day. In addition to a spectacular fireworks display, Miami lights one of its tallest buildings with the patriotic red, white and blue as does the Chrysler Building in New York City. Of course, as expected, New York City’s fireworks display is the largest in the country with more than 22 tons of exploding pyrotechnics over the East River. Other famous displays take place over the Charles River in Boston, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, San Francisco Bay and the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
More little-known facts: The tiny state of Rhode Island has held the longest running Independence Day celebration in the U.S., beginning in 1785. Seward, Nebraska, was declared the smallest town holding a celebration in the same town square since 1868. It is a town of 6,000 residents and swells to 40,000 during the Fourth of July celebration.
Patriotic songs such as The Star Spangled Banner, America the Beautiful, My Country ‘Tis of Thee, This Land is Your Land, Yankee Doodle Dandy, Stars and Stripes Forever and God Bless America are sung more on this day than any other.
In 1870 Congress made Independence Day an unpaid holiday for federal workers. It wasn’t until 1938 that Independence Day was declared a paid federal holiday.
The Boston Pops Orchestra hosts a music and fireworks show over the Charles River every July 4th (with the exception of last year), and in Washington, D.C., a free concert broadcast live by PBS, NPR and the American Forces Network precedes fireworks and, pre-COVID, attracted over half a million people annually.
And for a final thought: The Philippines celebrate July 4th to commemorate that day in 1946 when it ceased to be a U.S. territory. They call it Republic Day. Happy 4th!
Leslie Linsley has written more than 50 books on crafts, decorating and home style. She resides on Nantucket, Massachusetts. Her latest books are “Salvage Style” and “Upscale Downsizing” (Sterling Publishers). Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.