How Well Do You Know Your 4th of July History?

Some interesting and little-known facts surround our Declaration of Independence and our 4th of July holiday. For example, the Declaration of Independence that is on display in Washington, D.C. is not the earliest version of the document, and is also not the only copy! Were you aware that there actually is a message penned on the backside of it? Has the 4th of July always been a federal holiday? There are many facts surrounding the 4th of July that you may not know:

  • The Declaration of Independence was actually first adopted by congress on July 2, 1776; the revised and “final” version was not adopted until two days later. It is also not the earliest version; several hundred prints were distributed throughout the 13 colonies, and only 26 are known to survive today. These prints actually pre-date the signed copy on display in Washington, D.C.
  • One of our patriotic songs, “Yankee Doodle”, was originally sung by the British to mock disorganized American colonists who fought alongside them during the French and Indian War.
  • Many people know that to avoid cracking the Liberty Bell further, it has not been used for some time – it hasn’t been rung since 1846. However, many people don’t know that every July 4th it is symbolically tapped 13 times.
  • The Declaration of Independence was penned by Thomas Jefferson and signed by 56 men representing 13 colonies, eight of whom were born in Britain.
  • Fireworks were approved by Congress to celebrate Independence Day in 1777.
  • According to one signer of the Declaration, Thomas McKean, “No person signed it on that day nor for many days after”. It was revealed in the Secret Journals of Congress, made public in 1821, that it was actually signed on August 2, 1776.
  • The tune of the Star Spangled Banner was originally used by an English drinking song called “To Anacreon in Heaven”.
  • Uncle Sam was a real person. Samuel Wilson (1766-1854) moved to New York where they set up the business E.& S. Wilson, a meat packing business. During the War of 1812, the company landed a contract with the government to provide the army with beef and pork. The shipments were marked in barrels marked “U.S.” since the meat now belonged to the government, and soldiers took to saying that “U.S.” meant “Uncle Sam”. Eventually all U.S. branded property was “Uncle Sam’s”, and eventually evolved into the federal government itself becoming known as “Uncle Sam”.

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