With 243 years of tradition behind it, the Fourth of July is one of America’s most cherished holidays.It’s when we celebrate our nation with a day off, a backyard barbecue, and plenty of fireworks. But with all that history, you’d be forgiven if you didn’t know quite everything about July 4th.
So, from the true story behind the signing of the Declaration of Independence, to some staggering hot dog statistics, here are 5 things you might not know about the Fourth of July:
#1. While it might make for an iconic painting, but that famous image of all the Founding Fathers and Continental Congress huddled together, presenting the first draft of the Declaration of Independence for July 4, 1776 signing, isn’t quite how things really went down.
As famed David McCullough wrote, “No such scene, with all the delegates present, ever occurred in Philadelphia. “It’s now generally accepted that the Declaration of Independence wasn’t signed on the Fourth of July—that’s just the day the document was formally dated, finalized, and adopted by the Continental Congress, which had officially voted for independence on July 2 (the day John Adams thought we shouldcelebrate). Early printed copies of the Declaration were signed by John Hancock and secretary Charles Thomson to be given to military officers and various political committees, but the bulk of the other 54 men signed an official engrossed (finalized and in larger print) copy on August 2 with others to follow at a later date. Hancock (boldly) signed his name again on the updated version.
So, if you want to sound like a history buff at your family’s barbecue this year, point out that we’re celebrating the adoption of the Declaration, not the signing of it.
#2 Massachusetts recognized the Fourth of July as an official holiday on July 3, 1781, making it the first state to do so.
It wasn’t until June 28, 1870 that Congress decided to start designating federal holidays [PDF], with the first four being New Year’s Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. This decreed that those days were holidays for federal employees. However, there was a distinction, the Fourth was a holiday “within the District of Columbia” only.
It would take years of new legislation to expand the holiday to all federal employees. It has only been a national holiday since 1941
#3 AND, THE OLDEST ANNUAL FOURTH OF JULY CELEBRATION IS HELD IN BRISTOL, RHODE ISLAND.
Eighty-five years before the Fourth of July was even recognized as a federal holiday, one tradition began that continues to this day.
Billed as “America’s Oldest Fourth of July Celebration,” the town of Bristol, Rhode Island, has been doing Independence Day right since 1785.
The festivities began just two years after the Revolutionary War ended, and 2019 will be its 234th entry. Over the years the whole thing has expanded well beyond July 4th; the town of 23,000 residents now begins to celebrate the United States on Flag Day, June 14, all the way through to the 2.5-mile July 4 parade.
What began as a “patriotic exercise”—meaning church services—has morphed into a cavalcade of parades, live music, food, and other activities.
#4 WE WILL EAT AN OBSCENE NUMBER OF HOT DOGS.
Around 150 million, to be more specific—that’s how many hot dogs will be consumed by Americans on the Fourth of July. According to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council, that number of dogs can stretch from Washington D.C. to Los Angeles more than five times.
In 2018, 74 of those dogs were scarfed down by Joey Chestnut, who won the annual Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Competition for the eleventh time. Americans will spend big on food and drinks this Fourth. Big to the tune of around $6.7 billion when all is said and done, according to the National Retail Federation.
This includes food and other cookout expenses, averaging out to about $73 per person participating in a barbecue, outdoor cookout or picnic. Then comes the booze. According to the Beer Institute, “more beer is sold on and around the Fourth of July holiday than during any other time throughout the year.” July 4th is Americas #1 drinking holiday.
Generally, Americans will spend around $1 billion on beer for their Fourth celebrations, and more than $560 million on wine.
#5 Three presidents have died, and one was born, on the Fourth of July.
You probably know that both Thomas Jefferson and John Adams died on July 4, 1826—50 years to the day after the Declaration of Independence was adopted.
And, they are not the only presidents to have died on the Fourth, though; James Monroe—the nation’s fifth president—died just a few years later on July 4, 1831. Though the holiday might seem like it has it out for former presidents, there was one future leader born on Independence Day. The country’s 30th Commander-in-Chief, Calvin Coolidge, was born on July 4, 1872.
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