When writing the newsletter for the senior citizens, I try to keep things from getting boring; after all I've written it for almost 18 years now. And I'm surprised at how many times the search to not repeat myself leads me to learn something new. Maybe you'll find this interesting. Well, unless you're British...then I'll just wish y'all a nice weekend!
The 4th of July is often celebrated with fireworks, family and food. But did you know we actually celebrate the wrong date...all because no one took time to proofread the Declaration of Independence at the printer’s?
In June 1776 as the 13 Colonies literally fought for independence, the Continental Congress met in Philadelphia. Virginia delegate Richard Lee introduced a motion calling for the colonies’ independence, which led to a heated debate. (Seems like some things in Congress never change). A five man committee consisting of John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Robert Livingston, Thomas Jefferson, and Roger Sherman was appointed to draft, “a formal statement justifying the break with Great Britain”. On July 2nd the Continental Congress voted to adopt the now historic document known as the Declaration of Independence.
On July 3rd, John Adams wrote to his wife Abigail, “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.” He went on to suggest, “Pomp and Parade. Games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other.”
So why did this future U.S. President plan such a great party for the wrong date? Because Adams wasn’t wrong. July 2nd was the actual date for “declaring”. But when the men took their document to the printer on July 4th, the Printer simply printed the day’s date on top. Evidently no one noticed and as the widely circulated document was sent to the new states and generals in the field, July 2nd was simply forgotten. Historic footnote: the actual signing of the Declaration didn’t begin until August and wasn’t completed until November 1776.
The first public July 4th celebration was held in Philadelphia the following year and included concerts, bonfires, parades and the firing of cannons/muskets as the “Declaration” was read in public. For soldiers still in the field fighting, Gen. George Washington issued a double ration of rum. By 1941 the patriotic celebration became a federal holiday, with a day off with pay implemented by Congress for federal employees. Along the way the day became less political and more symbolically patriotic.
Before there were red, white, & blue banners everywhere, George Washington and his troops sported green in their caps and buildings were festooned with green wreaths. As red, white & blue paper became more readily available and the “Stars & Stripes” more important, the “green” tradition fell by the wayside.
Fireworks are actually another legacy first authorized by Congress in 1777. Today, the American Pyrotechnics Association estimates more than 14,000 professional firework displays light up the July 4th skies in the United States. At least 90% of a firework stand’s revenue is made in July as backyard firework sales have more than doubled. In 2007 alone, 238 million pounds of fireworks were sold to individuals, which translates into roughly $930 million.
And you thought fireworks only happened IN Congress.