This year, Independence Day falls on a Friday. This All-American holiday is most associated with beaches, barbecues and fireworks, but let’s not forget why we observe July 4 in the first place: the creation of the United States of America.
Here’s what you need to know about Independence Day:
1. It Celebrates the Signing of the Declaration of Independence
After the Revolutionary War broke out in 1775, more colonists felt independence from Britain was necessary. After a meeting of the Continental Congress, the form of government for the colonies, a committee was created to write a formal declaration of independence from Britain to be sent to King George III. The committee comprised of Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman and Robert Livingston wrote the declaration, which was formally adopted on July 4.
2. It Became a Federal Holiday in 1938
Although the holiday had been celebrated since 1776, Congress made Independence Day a federal holiday in 1938. Even more surprising, the holiday celebrating America’s birthday didn’t become a national holiday until 1870. But ever since the mid-1800s, the day has become an opportunity for Americans to enjoy leisure and summertime activities.
3. Technically the Declaration of Independence Wasn’t Signed on July 4
Even thought Independence Day is celebrated on July 4, Congress didn’t actually decide to separate from Britain the day the Declaration of Independence was brought to Philadelphia. Instead, Congress had voted to secede from Britain on July 2, and the writers of the declaration had two days to write the document that would be sent to King George III. In fact, John Adams wrote to his wife, Abigail, saying, “the Second of July, 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival.”
Technically, the Declaration of Independence wasn’t signed by every member of the Continental Congress until August 2, 1776 and wasn’t received by King George III in London until August 30. But, after being engrained in public consciousness, America’s birthday has been July 4 since the get go.
4. John Adams and Thomas Jefferson Died 50 Years After Signing the Declaration
John Adams and Thomas Jefferson died within hours of each other on July 4, 1826, 50 years after the declaration was signed. Adams and Jefferson are the only two writers of the declaration to have served as presidents. Adams and Jefferson had completely opposite political ideologies, with Adams believing in a strong, centralized government and Jefferson in a more hands-off government. This made their relationship of president and vice president complicated when Adams became Commander-in-Chief, but the two had rekindled their friendship after they each left office. According to MyHeritage, James Monroe, another Founding Father turned President, died July 4, 1831 on the 55th anniversary of the signing of the declaration.
5. More Than 14,000 Fireworks Displays Are Lit on Independence Day Every Year
According to the American Pyrotechnics Association, more than 14,000 fireworks displays light up skies across the country on July 4. Most fireworks stores spend 11 months of the year planning for the holiday, which accounts for roughly 75 percent of the industry’s yearly revenue. Congress first authorized the use of fireworks for Independence Day celebrations on July 4, 1777, but the tradition truly stems from the mid-19th century, when explosives left over from wars were set off to celebrate the day.