For many, the 4th of July is an excuse to relax in the sun, toss back a few drinks, and watch fireworks with family and friends, but the history of Independence Day is much richer and more exciting than you might believe. Here are some fun facts about the United States birthday that might surprise you and amaze your friends.
1. We didn’t actually declare Independence on the 4th of July
One of the greatest misconceptions of the 4th of July lies in the name and date. It is widely believed that America declared its independence from Britain on July 4, 1776. However, the official vote actually took place two days before and the “Declaration” was published in papers on July 4.
2. Only two men signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776
Charles Thompson and the infamous John Hancock were the only two men who actually signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. The other 54 delegates signed over the course of the next month.
3. One man who signed, later recanted the Declaration of Independence
Richard Stockton, a lawyer from New Jersey, became the only signer of the Declaration of Independence to recant his support of the revolution after being captured by the British in November 1776 and thrown in jail. After years of abusive treatment, and his recanting of loyalties, Stockton was released to find all of his property destroyed or stolen by the British. His library, one of the finest in the colonies, was burned to the ground.
4. The average age of the signers was 45 years old
Of the 56 signers, the youngest signers, Thomas Lynch Jr. and Edward Rutledge of South Carolina, were only 26. However, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania was the oldest signer at 70 years old.
5. The Declaration of Independence Was Written on a Laptop
Okay, not a modern laptop, but Thomas Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence on a writing desk that could fit over one’s lap. This device was referred to at the time as a “laptop.”
6. The designer of the 50-Star Flag lived in Lancaster, Ohio
In 1958, a history teacher assigned a class assignment to redesign the national flag as both Alaska and Hawaii neared statehood. Robert G. Heft, who was 16 at the time, designed a new flag using the old 48-star flag and $2.87 worth of blue cloth and white iron-on material. His design earned him a B-minus to which he challenged by sending it to Washington D.C. to be considered by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. According to his obituary, Heft was one of thousands to submit a flag design but he was the only person who actually stitched together a flag and shipped it to D.C. Once the flag was selected, Heft’s grade was rightfully changed to an A. His design became the official flag in 1960.
7. Fireworks = An American tradition dating back to 1777
Fireworks date back as a tradition of Independence Day as early as the first anniversary in 1777. John Adams wrote in a letter to his wife, Abigail, that he wanted Independence Day to be celebrated with, “pomp, parade, shows, and illuminations.” This original letter was written when Adams presumed that Independence Day would be celebrated on July 2nd.
8. Bizarre 50th anniversary
Thomas Jefferson, 82, and John Adams, 90, both died on July 4, 1826 within five hours of each other on the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
9. Americans will enjoy 150 Million hot dogs during the 4th
According to the National Sausage and Hot Dog Council (NHDSC), Americans are expected to eat 150 million hot dogs over the July 4th holiday. This is part of an estimated 7 billion that are expected to be eaten during the summer season from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
10. A little late to the parade
July 4th was not deemed a federal holiday until 1870, nearly 100 years after the nation was founded.