10 Things You Didn’t Know About the Fourth of July

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With 243 years of a story behind it, the Fourth of July is one of America’s most cherished festivals. It’s when we celebrate our nation’s belief with a day off, a backyard barbecue, and plenty of fireworks. But with all that story, you’d be forgiven if you didn’t know quite everything about July 4. So from the actual story back the signing of the Declaration of Independence to some huge hot dog statistics, here are 10 things you might not know about the Fourth of July.

1. THE STATEMENT OF INDEPENDENCE WASN’T SIGNED ON JULY 4 (OR IN JULY AT ALL).

It’s now usually accepted that the Declaration of Independence wasn’t signed on the Fourth of July—that’s just the day the paper was formally dated, finalized, and raised by the Continental Congress, which had officially voted for independence on July 2 (the day John Adams believed we should celebrate). Early printed copies of the Declaration were signed by John Hancock and Secretary Charles Thomson to be given to military officers and several political committees, but the bulk of the other 54 men signed an official engaged (finalized and in larger print) copy on August 2, with others to follow at a later date. Hancock (boldly) signed his name again on the updated report.

2. THE FIRST PARTIES WEREN’T MUCH DIFFERENT THAN TODAY’S.

Independence Day celebrations began to look a bit more familiar the following year, as the July 18, 1777 issue of the Virginia Gazette describes the July 4 celebration in Philadelphia:

“The evening was closed with the ringing of bells, and at night there was a grand exhibition of fireworks, which began and concluded with thirteen rockets on the commons, and the city was beautifully illuminated. Everything was conducted with the greatest order and decorum, and the face of joy and gladness was universal.”

3. EATING SALMON ON THE FOURTH OF JULY IS A CULTURE IN NEW ENGLAND.

The tradition of eating salmon on the Fourth of July started in New England as kind of a chance. It just so appeared that during the middle of the summer, salmon was in excess in rivers throughout the region, so it was a common sight on tables at the time.

4. MASSACHUSETTS WAS THE FIRST STATE TO ACCEPT THE HOLIDAY.

Massachusetts identified the Fourth of July as an official holiday on July 3, 1781, making it the leading state to do so. It wasn’t until June 28, 1870 that Congress decided to start assigning federal holidays [PDF], with the first four being New Year’s Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. This declared that those days were holidays for federal employees.

5. THE Most traditional ANNUAL FOURTH OF JULY Festival IS HELD IN BRISTOL, RHODE ISLAND.

Eighty-five years before the Fourth of July was even identified as a federal holiday, one tradition began that continues to this day. Billed as “America’s Oldest Fourth of July Celebration,” the town of Bristol, Rhode Island, has been doing Independence Day right since 1785.

6. THE Smallest FOURTH OF JULY PARADE IS IN APTOS, CALIFORNIA.

From the most traditional to the shortest, the Fourth of July parade in Aptos, California, is just a hair over half a mile long.

7. THERE ARE About 15,000 INDEPENDENCE DAY FIREWORKS CELEBRATIONS Each YEAR.

According to the American Pyrotechnics Association, around 15,000 fireworks shows will take place for the Fourth of July holiday (even if some aren’t exactly on July 4). Though pricing varies, most small towns spend anywhere from $8000-$15,000 for a fireworks display.

8. WE’LL EAT AN SHOCKING AMOUNT OF HOT DOGS.

Round 150 million, to be more specific—that’s how many hot dogs will be eaten by Americans on the Fourth of July. According to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council, that number of dogs can stretch from Washington D.C. to Los Angeles more than five times.

9. AND WE’LL SPEND BILLIONS ON FOOD.

Americans will pay big on food and drinks this Fourth. Big to the tune of about $6.7 billion when all is said and done, according to the National Retail Federation.

10. THREE PRESIDENTS HAVE DIED, AND ONE WAS BORN, ON THE FOURTH OF JULY.

You probably know that both Thomas Jefferson and John Adams died on July 4, 1826—50 years to the day after the Declaration of Independence was adopted. They’re not the only presidents to have died on the Fourth, though; James Monroe—the nation’s fifth president—died just a few years later on July 4, 1831.

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