The Second Continental Congress actually voted to declare independence from Britain on July 2 — not July 4. It took two days to have the official document prepared, hence the big “July 4, 1776” at the top of the Declaration.
The second Continental Congress authorized a five-man committee to draft a declaration of independence from England. That committee consisted of Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Roger Sherman and Robert R. Livingston.
Jefferson was regarded as the most eloquent of the five, so he did most of the work. The committee and the Congress made a total of 86 changes to his first draft.
That draft now resides in the manuscript collection of the Library of Congress.
The only man to actually sign the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776: The president of the Second Continental Congress, John Hancock.
Most of the others signed on Aug. 2.
July 2 “will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival,” wrote Adams. The day should include “pomp and parade, with shews, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations [fireworks] from one end of this continent to the other from this time forward forever more.”
As a personal protest against the wrong date becoming famous, Adams reportedly refused invitations to July Fourth events.
While only one U.S. president — Calvin Coolidge — was born on the Fourth of July, three of the first five presidents died on Independence Day.
1826: Both the second and third presidents — John Adams and Adams’ political enemy but close friend, Thomas Jefferson — die on July 4, 1826. Adams is 90. Jefferson is 83.
1831: James Monroe — the fifth president and the last who was one of the Founding Fathers — dies on July 4 at age 73.
1778: George Washington issues double rum rations to his troops to celebrate the second anniversary of independence.
1781: Massachusetts declares July 4 a state holiday.
1870: Congress declares July 4 an unpaid federal holiday.
1938: Congress makes July 4 a paid holiday for federal workers.
On July 4, 1863, Confederate forces surrendered to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant’s Army of the Tennessee in Vicksburg, Mississippi, giving Union forces control of the important Mississippi River shipping corridor.
It’s often said that Vicksburg didn’t celebrate the Fourth of July until 1945. But that’s not true, historian Michael Ballard writes in his history of the Vicksburg campaign. It makes a great story, however.
Two of the best-known Americans to be born on Independence Day — in 1918 — were identical twins whose professional careers were oddly parallel.
ANN LANDERSEsther Pauline “Eppie” FriedmanBegan her column: 1955Died: 2002 at age 83
DEAR ABBYPauline Esther FriedmanBegan her column: 1956Died: 2013 at age 94
1959: “The Battle of New Orleans” - Johnny Horton
1969: “Love Theme From Romeo & Juliet” - Henry Mancini & His Orchestra
1979: “Ring My Bell” - Anita Ward
1989: “Baby, Don’t Forget My Number” - Milli Vanilli
1999: “If You Had My Love” - Jennifer Lopez
2009: “Boom Boom Pow” - The Black Eyed Peas
The folks at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., celebrated our nation’s birthday in 1997 by landing the first rover on the surface of Mars.
The Sojourner rover did its thing for nearly three months by taking measurements, analyzing rocks and soil, and sending back 550 photos.
In 2016, NASA observed the Fourth of July by placing its Juno probe into orbit around Jupiter.
About 10 million U.S. flags are imported from China each year. Interestingly, U.S. flags would be exempt from President Trump’s proposed new tariffs.
The U.S. exported $781,222 worth of U.S. flags in 2013. The biggest customer: The Dominican Republic, which bought $160,000 worth.
In 2017, Americans bought nearly 13 pounds of fireworks each year for every man, woman and child in the country. That number fell nearly 25% in 2018.
Nearly 95% of these fireworks were imported from China.
Sources: U.S. Census Bureau, Library of Congress, Military.com, CBS News, The Washington Post, NASA, FindLaw.com, American Pyrotechnics Association, Flag Manufacturers of America, Box Office Mojo