Only 2.5 million people lived in the United States when the colonies first declared independence, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Today, the nation is much bigger than 13 wee states and it’s more crowded, too. This estimated population on for July 4, 2013, is 316.2 million people. [Source]

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As of June 26, 2015, the United States has a total resident population of 321,160,000, making it the third most populous country in the world.

Top Ten Things You (Probably) Didn’t Know About Historical Celebrations of Independence Day:

1.  Pekin, Indiana (1830) and Bristol, Rhode Island (1785) both have claims on the longest continuously running 4th of July Celebration. I’m not at all surprised other sources claim the first commemorative celebration took place many years later (1796).

2.  “During the American Revolution, the legal separation of the Thirteen Colonies from Great Britain occurred on July 2, 1776, when the Second Continental Congress voted to approve a resolution of independence that had been proposed in June by Richard Henry Lee of Virginia declaring the United States independent from Great Britain.” [Source: Wikipedia]

3.  “In 1777, thirteen gunshots were fired in salute, once at morning and once again as evening fell, on July 4 in Bristol, Rhode Island.” [Source: Wikipedia]

4.  “Philadelphia celebrated the first anniversary in a manner a modern American would find quite familiar: an official dinner for the Continental Congress, toasts, 13-gun salutes, speeches, prayers, music, parades, troop reviews, and fireworks. Ships were decked with red, white, and blue bunting.” [Source: Wikipedia including Heintze, “The First Celebrations”]

5.  On Monday, July 8, 1776, the Declaration was publicly read in Easton, Pennsylvania, and Trenton, New Jersey. Upon hearing of the Declaration, church bells rang all day in Philadelphia.

6.  The Nation’s first fireworks on the Fourth of July were authorized by Congress for July 4, 1777, in Philadelphia, to celebrate the one year anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

7.  In 1778, from his headquarters at Ross Hall, near New Brunswick, New Jersey, General George Washington marked July 4 with a double ration of rum for his soldiers and an artillery salute (feu de joie) [Source: Wikipedia].

8.  In 1779, The Fourth falls for the first time on a Sunday and celebrations take place on the following day, initiating that tradition.

9.  The musical drama, The Fourth of July or, Temple of American Independence, premiered in New York (The Daily Advertiser, 4 July 1799).

10. Independence Rock (Wyoming) is so named for a fur trader’s celebration held there in 1830. Emigrants along the Oregon Trail were on time in their journey if they reached this sizable landmark by July 4th. More than 5,000 emigrant names are carved into this “Great Register of the Desert”. See a modern map pinpointing Independence Rock here.

 Thus may the 4th of July, that glorious and ever memorable day, be celebrated through America, by the sons of freedom, from age to age till time shall be no more. Amen, and amen (Virginia Gazette, 18 July 1777).

Other less-known historical facts:

“Both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, the only signers of the Declaration of Independence later to serve as Presidents of the United States, died on the same day: July 4, 1826, which was the 50th anniversary of the Declaration.” [Source: Wikipedia]

“The act of Congress establishing Fourth of July as a holiday, but without pay, for federal employees and the District of Columbia occurred in 1870.”  [Researcher James R. Heintze]

“On June 29, 1938, by joint resolution of Congress, the Fourth of July was legislated as a Federal holiday with pay for its employees.” [Researcher James R. Heintze]

Note: James R. Heintze has compiled a wealth of information about the history of Independence Day since (at least) 1776. Interested? Find a database here.

What Independence Day Celebration traditions does your city have?

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Copyright © 2015 Kristin Holt, LC