By Mary Marvin, Bronxville Mayor
Jul. 1, 2020: I have written many times about the historical background of the Fourth of July and its significance as the birth of our Country and the impetus for many other nations to break the bonds of imperialism.
Its importance clearly could never be overestimated. However, as I dug deeper into my readings about the holiday, I found many interesting tangential facts. These include misconceptions, facts of less historical significance, but still quite interesting and some of the data surrounding the joy we all have as it marks the start of summer.
-Jefferson cannot take credit as the sole author of the Declaration of Independence. Actually, he was part of a five-person committee appointed by the Continental Congress to write it, including Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Robert Livingston, and Roger Sherman.
-After Jefferson wrote an initial draft, the other members of this declaration committee made 86 changes, including shortening the overall length by more than a fourth.
-One member of the writing committee, Robert Livingston, refused to sign the document as he believed it was too soon to declare independence.
-The most widely held misconception is that it was signed on July 4, 1776. In fact, independence was formally declared on July 2, 1776, a date John Adams believed would be “the most important epoch in the history of America.”
-Only two men actually signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, Charles Thompson and the famous John Hancock. The other 54 delegates signed over the course of the next months.
-Thomas Jefferson was 33 at the time of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
-The average age of the signers was 45. Of the 56 signers, the youngest signers, Thomas Lynch Jr. and Edward Rutledge of South Carolina, were only 26. Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania was the oldest signer at 70.
-At the time, Benjamin Franklin proposed that the turkey be named the national bird, but he was overruled by John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, who recommended the bald eagle.
-The only two signers of the Declaration of Independence who later served as Presidents of the United States were John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.
-Every Fourth of July, the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia is actually rung 13 times in honor of the original 13 colonies.
-The stars on the original flag were in a circle so that all of the 13 colonies would appear equal.
-The designer of our flag with 50 stars was actually a young man from Ohio who created it for a history class assignment. He received a disappointing B- but sent it on to Washington for consideration. After it was chosen as the best entry, his grade was retroactively changed to an A+.
-There are five references to God in the Declaration of Independence.
-When the Declaration of Independence was signed, they were 2.5 million people living in America. As of the most recent census, there are 325.7 million Americans.
-John Adams, at age 90 and Thomas Jefferson at age 82, had a love-hate relationship. Adams’ last words were purported to be, “Thomas Jefferson survives me.” He didn’t know that Jefferson had passed away just a few hours earlier, both dying on July 4, 1826, on the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
-Exactly five years later, on July 4, 1831, James Monroe, the fifth President of the United States, died in New York City.
-Born in 1872, the Country’s 30th President, Calvin Coolidge, is the only President with a Fourth of July birthday.
-July 4 was not deemed a federal holiday until 1870, nearly 100 years after the nation was founded. Congress made it a paid federal holiday in 1941.
-The Declaration of Independence spent World War II in Fort Knox. Two weeks after Pearl Harbor, the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence were packed in 150 pounds of protective gear and escorted via train by Secret Service agents to Louisville.
-The 2020 July 4 festivities will be its 235th anniversary.
-Lou Gehrig delivered his famous retirement speech at Yankee Stadium, saying, “I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth,” on July 4, 1939.
-The first Independence Day celebration took place in Philadelphia on July 8, 1776. This was also the day that the Declaration of Independence was first read in public after people were summoned by the ringing of the now famous Liberty Bell.
-The oldest continuous Fourth of July parade is held in Bristol, Rhode Island, with an inception date of 1785.
-26% of Americans will purchase patriotic merchandise for this Fourth of July.
-61% of Americans own an American flag accounting for $5.4 million in purchases annually. The vast majority of flags are imported from China.
-Americans spend over $1 billion on fireworks each year, 90% of which are imports from China. However, only 10% of the fireworks displays are set off professionally, which probably accounts for the estimated 12,900 firework-related emergency room visits across the Country.
-More than 2 million is spent on fireworks for the Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular, while Macy’s spends upwards of $6 million.
-Americans plan to spend $6.8 billion on food for the July 4 holiday, with part of this budget being the purchase of 150 million hotdogs.
-More beer is sold around the Fourth of July holiday than during any other time of the year. Americans will spend approximately $100 billion on beer purchases.
Photo by A. Warner
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