We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. -The Declaration of Independence…………………Image courtesy of wikimedia.org, and is in the public domain
I love all holidays. Spring, summer, fall, or winter; holidays are always special. My husband is off work, the kids are home, loved ones gather, and millions of people slow down and celebrate the same event. Holidays unite people in a way that nothing else does.
Independence Day is one of my favorites. Without the actions of a determined group of people, I wouldn’t have grown up in the greatest nation in the world.
We have all year to debate governmental policies and economic platforms; Independence Day should be a day to celebrate our freedom, our unalienable rights, our liberty. And that’s exactly what my family will be doing this year, with a picnic and fireworks.
In honor of our Founding Fathers and the soldiers who gave us our great nation, I found a few “fun facts” about Independence Day to share.
1) The anniversary of our independence is not really July 4.
In a closed session of congress on July 2, 1776, the resolution of independence was approved, legally separating the thirteen colonies from Great Britain. Proof of that was found in a letter John Adams wrote to his wife: “The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival.” So why do we celebrate Independence Day on July 4th? Because that’s the date printed on the Declaration of Independence.
2) All 56 men didn’t sign The Declaration of Independence at the same time. Officially, the signing occurred on August 2, 1776, when 50 of the men signed it. For the safety of the men, their names were kept hidden from the public for more than six months. If the independence movement had not succeeded, the signers would have been guilty of treason and put to death.
3) The Revolutionary War didn’t begin with the Declaration of Independence.
The Declaration of Independence wasn’t adopted until 1776, but the American Revolution began in 1775 and lasted until 1783. This epic battle for liberty culminated with independence for the colonies and the birth of the United States.
4) The first Independence Day celebration wasn’t July 2 or July 4.
Independence Day was first celebrated in Philadelphia on July 8, 1776. In America, before the revolution, colonists would hold annual celebrations in honor of the king’s birthday. In 1976, colonists celebrated independence by holding fake funerals for King George III, symbolizing America’s liberty from Great Britain. Early Independence Day celebrations also included concerts, bonfires, parades, and cannon fire.
5) Parades and fireworks mark Independence Day because of John Adams.
In the same letter John Adams sent his wife, he went on to say: “It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations [fireworks], from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.”
6) A standard flag was created to avoid confusion.
The reason a standard flag was even suggested was because colonists were all creating their own emblems as symbols of independence from Great Britain.
- One was a British Union Jack sitting in the upper-left corner of a red flag with the words “Liberty and Union” (in white) adorning the field’s lower half.
- The Sons of Liberty (famous for the Boston Tea Party) operated with a simple flag sporting alternating red and white stripes.
- Another popular design was a coiled rattlesnake on a yellow or red-and-white striped flag emblazoned with the words “Don’t tread on me.”
- Immediately before the Declaration of Independence, the most popular flag of revolution was the “Continental Colors.” This flag displayed a Union Jack in the upper-left corner on a field of red and white stripes. That particular flag created confusion in battle. Because of the presence of the Union Jack, sometimes revolutionists were mistaken for the enemy, prompting the June 14 resolution creating a standard flag.
7) The flag’s first design was unspecific; standards were adopted later.
On June 14, 1777, the Continental Congress passed the country’s first flag law. It was a brief resolution, but lacking detail: “Resolved. That the flag of the United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.” The law said nothing about the flag’s shape or size, nor did it direct the order of stripes or the size, type, or arrangement of stars. The Continental Congress adopted the first flag as a sign of national pride and unity. Flag standards were set on June 24, 1912 by an Executive Order from President Taft. For the first time, there were specific proportions given and directions for the arrangement of the stars (at that time, into six rows of eight).
8) The flag colors of red, white, and blue were never given specific meaning.
Charles Thomson, the secretary of the Continental Congress, was one of the designers of the Great Seal of the United States. In his report to Congress on June 20, 1782, the day the seal was approved, he described the colors of the seal by saying: “White signifies purity and innocence. Red hardiness and valour and Blue . . . signifies vigilance, perseverance and justice.” That is likely where the flag’s colors gained their meaning, however, no such attribution was ever given to it. Historians believe the colors to have come from Great Britain’s Union Jack. Today, the interpretations are as follows, but are not official:
Colors Meaning on the Great Seal Flag Interpretation
Red Hardiness and valour Blood, war, and courage
White Purity & innocence Purity
Blue Vigilance, perseverance & justice Justice and freedom
9) The 13 stars on the first official flag were arranged in a circle, not lines.
While there was no official law mandating the arrangement of the stars in the field of blue, the stars were said to have been in a circle so no state would be above another.
10) There is no proof that Betsy Ross sewed the first American flag.
We’ve all heard the story that Betsy Ross was approached by George Washington with a sketch he drew and she then sewed the first American Flag. That story was first told to the Historical Society of Pennsylvania by her grandson, William Canby, in 1870, nearly 100 years after the event took place. His only evidence was testimonials from his family. There is no tangible historical evidence — letters, diaries, newspaper accounts, bills of sale — that Ross (then Elizabeth Claypoole) had any involvement in the creation of the flag. Does that mean that she didn’t do it? No. In fact, there are several patriotic organizations that support Betsy Ross at the first creator of the iconic symbol, stating that she’s a cherished part of American history and is synonymous with the flag’s creation. So who actually designed the flag, if not George Washington? Continental Congress journals show that patriot and New Jersey Congressman Francis Hopkinson was the flag’s designer. No evidence has been found specifying who first sewed it.
11) Uncle Sam was inspired by a real person, but not a patriot during the Revolutionary War.
The Uncle Sam symbol probably began in 1812. The US Army was being supplied meat shipments from meat packer Samuel Wilson. Those shipments had a “U.S.” stamp on them. Someone joked that “U.S.” stood for “Uncle Sam,” the meat provider. Eventually that joke resulted in Uncle Sam symbolizing the United States government.
Did I miss any big ones?
Share your knowledge in the comments section below, and have a Happy 4th of July!