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From the Mayor: Origins and Meaning of the Fourth of July

By Mary Marvin, Mayor of Bronxville

July 3, 2024: During my morning walk today, I went by not only stores, but homes festooned with red white and blue flags and bunting and they brought a smile of gratitude to my face for where we live and a desire to do more research on the origins and meaning of the upcoming holiday.

The men who signed the Declaration of Independence were truly brave Americans as they gave of themselves beyond measure.

When the 56 men of the Second Continental Congress penned their signatures in Philadelphia, they were fully aware that it was an act of treason punishable by death. John Hancock; wealthy merchant, president of the Second Continental Congress and first Governor of Massachusetts signed first so boldly so, “The British ministry can read that name without spectacles.”

They were all well educated, soft-spoken, and had financial security, but as they said, “They valued liberty more.”

Their signing statement, written in unanimous accord, read, “For the support of this declaration, with firm reliance on the protection of the divine providence, we mutually pledge to each other, our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.”

And they paid deeply on every level.

Most were family men of considerable means who had a great deal to lose in person and property. Their document was a declaration of freedom which required an arduous war to be fought before our nation declared was a nation in fact.

Of the 56 patriots who signed their names; nine died of wounds during the War of Independence, five were in prison for decades, five were captured as traitors and tortured and killed, and several had wives, sons and even entire families murdered for the cause. One signer lived to see all 13 of his children murdered and every signer was the target of manhunts with huge bounties on their heads. They lived on the run, leaving prosperous farms, shipping businesses and law practices. Signers had their homes and property burnt to ruins and 17 ended up dying destitute yet no one went back on his pledged word.

Of the 56 signers, eight were born in Britain. At age 26, Edward Rutledge of Charleston, South Carolina was the youngest signer and he continued a lifetime of government service culminating in the Governorship of South Carolina. The oldest signer was Ben Franklin at age 70.

Jefferson is credited as the author of the Declaration of Independence, but actually he was part of a five person committee appointed by the Continental Congress which included Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Robert Livingston, and Roger Sherman.

After Jefferson wrote an initial draft, the other members of the declaration committee made 86 changes, including shortening the overall length by more than a fourth.

Jefferson was quite unhappy about some of the edits as he had included condemning the promotion of the slave trade, even though he himself was a slave owner, but this provision was removed over his vehement objection.

There are five references to God in the Declaration of Independence. The stars on the original flag were in a circle so that all 13 colonies would appear equal.

We were often taught that the primary reason the American colonists revolted against British rules was related to taxes, but “Taxation without representation” is the 17th among the 27 priority reasons given for seceding.

The actual Declaration of Independence document spent World War II in Fort Knox. Two weeks after Pearl Harbor, both 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.

A member of the writing committee, Robert Livingston, refused to sign the document as he believed it was too soon to declare independence.

What is 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 believe would be, “The most epoch in the history of America.” It was actually on July 4, 1776, that the Congress approved the final text of the declaration and it wasn’t signed until August 2, 1776.

When George Washington read the document in front of New York City Hall, a raucous crowd cheered and then subsequently tore down a nearby statue of George III. The statue was then melted down and shaped into 42,000 musket balls for the fledgling American army.

On a lighter note, the Fourth of July is the most popular day for barbecuing and Americans spend $6.7 billion on food: the most popular food, not surprisingly being the hotdog as we will eat 150 million of them on Thursday with about 86% of Americans planning to celebrate the holiday.

The Fourth is also one of the country‘s most prolific holidays for drinking, right up there with Super Bowl Sunday and St. Patrick’s Day with $3 billion spent on beer and wine alone.

Around the holiday, Americans buy more than 6.5 million flags with 99% of them made in China.

$7 billion will be spent on fireworks and not surprisingly, 74% of all firework’s injuries occur within the week surrounding the Fourth.

Surprisingly, the Fourth of July was not made a federal holiday until 1870, nearly 100 years after the nation was founded and it was not a paid federal holiday until 1941.

Quotes, spoken by the founders surrounding the creation of the document are timeless and certainly quite apropos in 2024.

“If ever the time should come, when vain and aspiring men shall possess the highest seats in government, our country will stand in need of its experienced patriots to prevent its ruin.” Samuel Adams

“The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.” Thomas Jefferson



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Bronxville Overview

Bronxville is a quaint village (one square mile) located just 16 miles north of midtown Manhattan (roughly 30 minutes on the train) and has a population of approximately 6,500. It is known as a premier community with an excellent public school (K-12) and easy access to Manhattan. Bronxville offers many amenities including an attractive business district, a hospital (Lawrence Hospital), public paddle and tennis courts, fine dining at local restaurants, two private country clubs and a community library.

While the earliest settlers of Bronxville date back to the first half of the 18th century, the history of the modern suburb of Bronxville began in 1890 when William Van Duzer Lawrence purchased a farm and commissioned the architect, William A. Bates, to design a planned community of houses for well-known artists and professionals that became a thriving art colony. This community, now called Lawrence Park, is listed on the National register of Historic Places and many of the homes still have artists’ studios. A neighborhood association within Lawrence Park called “The Hilltop Association” keeps this heritage alive with art shows and other events for neighbors.

Bronxville offers many charming neighborhoods as well as a variety of living options for residents including single family homes, town houses, cooperatives and condominiums. One of the chief benefits of living in “the village” is that your children can attend the Bronxville School.

The Bronxville postal zone (10708, known as “Bronxville PO”) includes the village of Bronxville as well as the Chester Heights section of Eastchester, parts of Tuckahoe and the Lawrence Park West, Cedar Knolls, Armour Villa and Longvale sections of Yonkers. Many of these areas have their own distinct character. For instance, the Armour Villa section has many historic homes and even has its own newsletter called “The Villa Voice” which reports on neighborhood news.

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