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By Charles Apple The Spokesman-Review

Before you dive into your barbecue and hot dogs (or your barbecued hot dogs), check out these 13 things about our nation’s birthday that you might not know.

The Wrong Date

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.

In Congress, July 4 1776
National Archives

A Work In Progress

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.

John Hancock adds his John Hancock

The only man to actually sign the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776: The president of the Second Continental Congress, John Hancock.

A signature so famous the name became slang for the word signature

Most of the others signed on Aug. 2.

The Wrong Date, Part Two

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.

National Archives

A Day for Goodbyes

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.

It Wasn't Always a Holiday

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.

National Archives

Holding a Grudge

National Archives

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.

Born on the Fourth of July

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

Eppie and Pauline FriedmanAssociated Press

The No. 1 Song on July 4 in...

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

How NASA celebrates the Fourth


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.

Your Stars and Stripes are made in the U.S.

According to the Flag Manufacturers Association of America

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.

...But Your Fireworks are Made in China

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.

Top 5 July Fourth Weekend Movie Openings

According to Box Office Mojo; not adjusted for inflation
According to Box Office Mojo; not adjusted for inflation
According to Box Office Mojo; not adjusted for inflation

Sources: U.S. Census Bureau, Library of Congress,, CBS News, The Washington Post, NASA,, American Pyrotechnics Association, Flag Manufacturers of America, Box Office Mojo