Today is the 4th of July: the day Americans celebrate their country’s independence.
It’s a day you probably know well, and one that you anticipate with pleasure; but there are probably a lot of fun facts about the nation’s birthday that you aren’t familiar with.
So, as you wait for Thursday’s barbecues, fireworks and unabashed noshing on hot dogs, have a quick read of these 10 interesting facts about July 4th. Who knows? You may even pick up a tidbit or two to share with your pals around the grill on the big day.
1. Happy 2nd of July?!
Author Kenneth C. Davis has revealed that the 2nd of July may actually be the more appropriate date to mark the nation’s special day.
“The fact is that John Adams wrote home to Abigail on the 3rd that this day, July 2nd will go down in history,” Davis said during an appearance on “CBS This Morning.” “We’ll celebrate it with parades and pomp and bells ringing and fireworks, and it was because Congress actually ruled it in favor of independence on July 2. But it was two days later, of course, that Congress then accepted Jefferson’s declaration, explaining the vote two days before that really got fixed in the America’s imagination as our birthday. July 2nd should be Independence Day.”
2. R.I.P Founding Fathers
In a bizarre, though perhaps apt, twist of fate, both Thomas Jefferson and John Adams died on July 4, 1826.
“The publication of the Declaration of Independence may have accidentally made the Fourth of July the official day of independence for America, but the deaths of two of its founders cemented its creation of the date’s designation,” wrote the FW’s Danny Gallagher in a post commemorating Independence Day last year.
3. Happy Filipino, Rwandan Independence Day too!
July 4 marks a day of liberation in both the Philippines and Rwanda. In the Southeast Asian nation, July 4, known as “Republic Day,” marks the date when the United States officially recognized the Philippines as an independent state in 1946. (However, though the day is still significant to Filipino history, June 12 has been the country’s official Independence Day since 1962.)
Rwandans, on the other hand, celebrate “Liberation Day” on July 4. According to a 2008 post for the New York Times by blogger Josh Ruxin, the date marks the 1994 “end of the Rwandan Genocide, and the birth of the new government that rose from the ashes.”
4. Holiday, Shmoliday
“Americans began observing the Fourth of July as early as 1777, when the first-ever major celebration in Philadelphia included a parade, a thirteen-shot cannon salute and fireworks, but Congress didn’t make it official until 1870, when it was part of a bill passed to recognize major state holidays at a federal level – like Independence Day, Christmas and New Year’s Day,” according to Time magazine.
5. Birthday Celebrations Abound!
Calvin Coolidge, the country’s 30th president, was born on Independence Day. Others celebrating birthdays on July Fourth include, Nobel laureate and economist Gerard Debreu, Olympic gold medalist and tennis Hall of Famer Pam Shriver, “Ugly Betty” actress Becki Newton and current first daughter Malia Obama.
6. Hot Dogs Galore
July Fourth is the “biggest hot dog holiday of the year,” according to Time magazine, with Americans reportedly consuming about 155 million of them on Independence Day alone.
But despite a nationwide love for the salty snack, no one really knows where the hot dog came from. According to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council, it is “likely that the North American hot dog comes from a widespread common European sausage brought here by butchers of several nationalities.” The meaty treat’s origin story remains murky, however.
7. Turtle Soup, Anyone?
Though hot dogs, french fries and barbecued treats are typical Fourth of July fare nowadays, our Founding Fathers feasted on some pretty different foods to celebrate the country’s independence back in the day.
“According to legend, on July 4, 1776, John Adams…and his wife, Abigail, sat down for a celebratory meal of turtle soup, New England poached salmon with egg sauce, green peas and boiled new potatoes in jackets. They followed the meal with Indian pudding or Apple Pandowdy,” wrote Justine Sterling for Delish.com in 2011.
8. The “State Of Independence”
Is Pennsylvania the country’s most patriotic state? According to the US Census Bureau, the so-called “State of Independence,” where the Declaration of Independence was debated and signed, is home to 11 places with the word “liberty” in their name and 33 with the word “union” in them, leading the country for the number of places with such names.
(Only one place in the nation has “patriot” in its name, according to the bureau. Patriot, Ind., is said to have an estimated population of 209.)
9. American Bald… Turkey?
In a letter to his daughter Sarah Bache in 1784, Benjamin Franklin wrote that he was displeased that the bald eagle had been chosen as the symbol for the nation.
“He is a Bird of bad moral character. He does not get his Living honestly,” he wrote. “You may have seen him perched on some dead Tree near the River, where, too lazy to fish for himself, he watches the Labour of the Fishing Hawk.”
A turkey, Franklin went on to argue, is a far “more respectable” bird. “Turk’y… [is a] true original Native of America,” Franklin wrote. “He is besides, though a little vain & silly, a Bird of Courage, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a red Coat on.”
10. Tap, Tap, Tap
Due to concerns about cracking the iconic instrument, the Liberty Bell has not been rung since 1846. Instead, every year, to mark the Fourth of July, the 2,000-pound bell is tapped 13 times to signal for bells across the country to start ringing.