You know how to say the Pledge of Allegiance and you can sing along to "The Star-Spangled Banner" any day, but are you aware of how many cool Fourth of July facts about America you probably didn't know? As it turns out, there's a lot of stuff they didn't include in your history text books.
The Fourth of July is one of America's favorite holidays. For most people, it means an entire day of sunshine, beer, as well as plenty of burgers and dogs. Between the trips to the beach, the backyard cook outs, and the fun fireworks display, it's easy to forget just how important the day is, and how much history is behind it. Sure, your local town might have a reading of the Declaration of Independence or a parade featuring costumed Founding Fathers, but how much do you really know about how the holiday came to be, and how our country got its start?
We've all heard the stories — the fames ride of Paul Revere, the legendary crack in the liberty bell — but now it's time we learned the facts.
1Jul. 4 Shouldn't Actually Be Independence Day
Forget everything you thought you knew about Independence Day, because it turns out, it's not even supposed to be on the Fourth of July. It was actually on Jul. 2 that the Second Continental Congress met in Philadelphia and approved a motion for independence from Britain. A newspaper, the Pennsylvania Evening Post, even published a headline declaring "This day the Continental Congress declared the United Colonies Free and Independent." But it wasn't until two days later, on Jul. 4, that the Declaration of Independence was adopted by the Congress, and the Founding Fathers declared the day officially Independence Day... well, most of them.
2John Adams Never Recognized Jul. 4
Maybe it was is stubbornness or possibly his attention to detail, but according to historian Kenneth C. Davis, Adams never celebrated Independence Day on Jul. 4. In a famous letter written to his wife on Jul. 3, the day after the Congress voted on independence, Jefferson said "The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding generations, as the great anniversary Festival."
Even though he got it wrong, it seems like he never could quite let it go.
3The First Public Celebration Of Jul. 4 Was Actually On Jul. 8
How many dates can one holiday have? When it comes to Independence Day, the answer is: a lot. The first official public celebration of what is now lovingly referred to as "the Fourth" was actually on Jul. 8 when the Declaration of Independence was read aloud to a crowd in Philadelphia, PA back in the 1700s.
Fun fact: it was also on that day that the famed Liberty Bell was rung, but not cracked.
4The Declaration Of Independence Wasn't Actually Signed Until Aug. 2
Keep your calendars out, because I have another date for you to add to your Independence Day roster: Aug. 2, 1776. It was on this day that the 56 members of Congress actually signed an enlarged copy of the Declaration of Independence. Prior to that date, only John Hancock, president of the Congress, and Charles Thomas, the secretary, affixed their signatures to the original copy.
Fireworks have been a part of Independence Day celebration since the very beginning. A tradition stolen from Great Britain, they were used first used in the first Independence Day's "mock funerals, symbolic celebrations that were supposed to be symbolic of the death of King George and his hold over the country. Since the monarch usually set them off to celebrate his birthday, the colonist decided to turn the tables completely. Talk about a burn.
6Thomas Jefferson Wasn't Alone In Writing The Declaration Of Independence
Nowadays, Thomas Jefferson is the celebrated author of the Declaration of Independence, one of our country's finest and best written documents. But did you know that he was actually part of a team? Prior to becoming the author of the historical document, Congress had actually created the Committee of Five to draft it: John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, Robert Livingston, and Jefferson. It was Adams who encouraged Jefferson to do the writing, since he was the finest wordsmith out of any of them.
7One Signer Of The Declaration Later Recanted
All 56 members of Congress signed the Declaration of Independence, but not all of them stuck to their pledge. After being captured and held prisoner by the British, Stockton recanted his allegiance with America and swore loyalty to Britain. He would later take that back, as well, when he swore an oath of loyalty to his state of New Jersey in 1777, but he never fully recovered from his traumatic experience and died in 1781, just five years after the Declaration was drafted.
8There Is Something Written On The Back Of The Declaration Of Independence
No, it's not a map to buried treasure of the President's book of secrets. Written on the back of the original Declaration is one sentence: "Original Declaration of Independence dated 4th July 1776." Historians believe it is simply a label to identify the document when it was rolled up, which many documents were for transportation and storage.
9Paul Revere Wasn't The Only Messenger On That Midnight Ride
Everyone knows the famous Henry Wadsworth Longfellow poem about Paul Revere, but did you know it wasn't entirely accurate? While most people think Revere was the only messenger that night, he was one of many horseback riders tasked with warning the revolutionaries in Concord of England's movement. He also never made it: although he was supposed to tell John Hancock and Samuel Adams that the British were coming, he was detained in Lexington, and it was physician Samuel Prescott who got the job done.
10Not All The Founding Fathers Wore Wigs
There's a classic image of the Founding Fathers all signing the Declaration of Independence in big, white powdered wigs, but not every person actually wore them. Unlike their contemporaries, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson wore their hair long and powdered it themselves instead of wearing a wig, and Ben Franklin let his locks flow naturally.
11Mount Rushmore Wasn't Always Supposed To Have Presidents On It
Before this South Dakota landmark was the patriotic tourist attraction it is today, Mount Rushmore had a very different design. Originally, the state's historian wanted an artist to carve heroes of the American west — including Red Cloud, Lewis and Clark, and Buffalo Bill Cody — into the fames Needles in South Dakota's Black Hills. But when sculptor Gutzon Borglum visited the site, he claimed “Figures on those granite spikes would only look like misplaced totem poles."
Instead, he found Mount Rushmore's granite, and chose to incorporate the portraits of four presidents instead: Theodore Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, and Thomas Jefferson.