10 Fascinating Facts About American Independence Day - 4th of July and of course a few stories.
Independence Day in America
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.
— Preamble to the Declaration of Independence
These are beautiful and aspirational principles that have and continue to inspire nations and people around the world. This nascent American democracy sparked a sea change wherein nations around the world began to emulate the new constitutional representative American democracy.
The most important fact about independence day, is that Independence Day in America celebrates our Declaration of Independence from Great Britain. It is a day that invites all Americans and inspires others around the world to celebrate the beautiful founding principles of America. And it is important to underscore that the Declaration of Independence laid out principles that were and remain aspirational - the nation was not, nor is it yet, by any means, perfect. The new nation was dependent on the toil and sorrow of enslaved people and denied women and enslaved people the right to vote. Yet, Independence Day remains aspirational and America remains a country in transition, reaching, however haltingly, toward fulfillment of its founding principles.
And as we get ready to celebrate Independence day in America, here are some interesting facts and history:
1. The Continental Congress - governing body of representatives of all 13 original colonies of the United States from 1774-1781 - met to discuss and address grievances with Great Britain. The members of the Continental Congress then planned and signed the Declaration of Independence, which we now honor on Independence day, July 4th..
2. The Revolutionary War, or the American War of Independence, with Great Britain began in April 19, 1775, with “the shot heard round the world” at the Battles of Lexington and Concord in Massachusetts.
3. The Continental Congress announced their unanimous ratification of the Declaration of Independence from Great Britain on July 4, 1776.
4. The official signing of the Declaration of Independence didn’t begin until August 2, 1776.
5. The British didn’t accept the independence of the American colonies until the British army surrendered at Yorktown, Virginia, on September 3, 1783.
6. American Founding Fathers, crafters of the Declaration of Independence, all three of them Presidents of the United States, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, James Monroe, died on July 4. Jefferson and Adams, died just hours apart in 1826. James Monroe died July 4th, but in 1831.
7. Present Day Independence Day Celebrations include fireworks, picnics, parades and flag displays.
8. On Independence Day, 2022, Joey Chestnut won his 15th men's title at the annual Nathan's Famous Fourth of July hot dog eating contest at Coney Island in New York. Joey Chestnut consumed 63 hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes! His previous record was 76 hot dogs in 2021.
9. Independence Day in America is a federal holiday. Banks, government offices and most businesses are closed.
10. The United States has made strides in fulfilling its promise of equal rights. Slavery in the U.S. was abolished December 6, 1865. Women’s suffrage was granted August 18, 1920. Equal rights for all people remains a struggle as some rights diminish and others gain footholds.
Those are the facts about Independence Day in the U.S. But as America is a sprawling and disparate country, struggling messily to be its best self, we will offer you, dear reader, two different Fourth of July stories found here in History Chip, reflecting the aspirational joy of the day.
A July 4th Picnic
A story by Connie Westreich
I grew up in a suburb in the borough of Queens, N.Y. – Richmond Hill, to be exact. I was one of two children – I had an older brother. He passed away about ten years ago. During the summer months my family frequently drove to Belmont Lake State Park (Long Island) for a picnic – especially on a holiday like July 4th. This story is about a July 4th picnic! …
The families were dressed in brightly colored clothing – with patriotic colors. The children ran around playing in their colorful clothes! Many youngsters carried small flags attached to thin wooden sticks. The leaves on the branches of the large old maple, oak and sycamore trees cast some welcome shade.
Another Kind of July 4th
A story by Jeanie Henry
Another Kind of July 4th
Back in 1976 my husband and I were lucky enough to be able to go on a trip to Scandinavia. We flew to Denmark and boarded a small ship for approximately 100 people and proceeded to travel around until we got to the famous fjords of Norway. We were in Bergen at Edvard Grieg’s home for a piano recital when it dawned on me that we really should be home in the USA celebrating, as it was July 4th 1976 – the 200th year of our country’s founding! I was feeling patriotic and a little guilty and thinking of all the flag waving that must be going on – but – as we returned to our ship from the day’s excursion we were met by a surprise – a band playing our National Anthem! Later they all came aboard with some other Norwegians for a party, and there was more band music as we departed. Later we had a special dinner and then one of the ship’s staff got up and read parts of the Declaration to us. Tho I thought I was familiar with it, I don’t think I’d ever REALLY heard it before and it was very moving to be on a small Greek ship with a Greek crew in the middle of a Norwegian fiord listening to an American speech for Independence! In retrospect it was surely the most meaningful July 4th I ever had. I was actually glad I hadn’t been home after all.
In this big imperfect country, we try. We are a country of immigrants and indigenous peoples. We may seem to be oil and water and yet we all want so many of the same things in life. We want our kids to be healthy, have good schools to go to, a warm bed at night. And on the 4th of July, we try to remember that we are celebrating the experiment of democracy - where all of us are created equal and where all of our voices matter. History Chip is also devoted to democracy. We know that all of us are equal and all of our voices matter. So join us in celebrating democracy and share your story today. Your story matters!