10 Fun Facts About 4th of July You Probably Forgot

fourth of july american flag sparkler

It’s time to stock up on beer, brats, fireworks, and apparel with the American flag plastered all over it because Independence Day is nearly here! Before you fire up the grill and set off those sparklers, bone up on some interesting history with these 4th of July fun facts you’ve probably forgotten since your last history class.

It actually happened on July 2.

The Continental Congress voted for American independence on July 2, 1776. So why isn’t that the day we stuff our maws with tri-colored pie and shoot fire into the sky? Well, it was two days later that Congress fully accepted the Declaration of Independence.

Or maybe it actually happened on August 2?

Although the Declaration was accepted on July 4, it wasn’t officially signed by every member until nearly a month later, on August 2, 1776. The Declaration itself is dated July 4, though, which is why that became our official Independence Day holiday.

The Declaration of Independence of the United States of America by Charles Edouard Armand-Dumaresq
“The Declaration of Independence of the United States of America, July 4, 1776” by Charles Édouard Armand-Dumaresq.

John Adams knew exactly how we were going to celebrate.

After the initial vote on July 2, 1776, John Adams wrote to his wife, Abigail, that the holiday would be celebrated with parades and fireworks. What he didn’t predict, though, was that someday far in the future, people would continue lighting fireworks at all hours of the night for a full two months after the holiday ends.

The first celebrations took place a year later.

While American independence became official in 1776, the first full-fledged Independence Day celebrations took place a year later in 1777. The festivities happened in Bristol, Rhode Island, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Philly set the stage for everyone with decadent food, plentiful booze, and lots of fireworks.

2016_Bristol_Rhode_Island_Fourth_of_July_Parade
Bristol, Rhode Island. Kenneth C. Zirkel/Wikimedia

That party in Bristol is still going.

The town of Bristol, Rhode Island, still hosts an annual 4th of July hootenanny to this day. Although the 1777 celebration was a simple 13 gunshot salute, today the festivities (which include concerts, fireworks, contests, and more) begin on Flag Day and continue all the way through Independence Day, culminating in a patriotic parade.

The White House was a little late to the party.

The first White House Independence Day party didn’t happen until 1801.

washington dc fireworks fourth of july
Courtesy of Library of Congress

Massachusetts was a little ahead of the game.

Independence Day didn’t become a national holiday all at once. Massachusetts was the first state to declare the date an official holiday in 1781. It took 89 more years for Congress to just get on with it and declare it an official holiday across the country.

Those old-timey guys got drunk for Independence Day too.

Today, the 4th of July is America’s drunkest holiday (with over $1 billion spent on beer every year and over half a million on wine), but the tradition goes back pretty far. Soldiers in the Continental Army were given extra allowances of rum to celebrate Independence Day.

The day might be cursed.

John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, both critical to the establishment of American independence, died on the same day: July 4th, 1826, exactly 50 years after the first Independence Day. Spooky.

We might not be as patriotic as we think we are.

Over $307.8 million worth of the fireworks used in our Independence Day celebrations are imported. Over $5 million worth of the flags we fly to celebrate are also imported.

Article originally published June 25, 2018. Last updated July 4, 2018.

Living

Kickstarter, a Team of Designers, and a Determined Owner Brought the Jennings Hotel Back to Life

The Jennings Hotel is the hotel that isn’t. It doesn’t offer food service. It doesn’t have a lobby. It doesn’t have televisions. And not all of the rooms have private bathrooms.
Travel

21 Best Travel Books to Inspire Your Next Adventure

Get out of town ... or just go to the library. Travel books simulate the sensations of sailing, sightseeing, and setting out to explore.
Culture

Treat Yourself to a Glass of Bourbon and a Pappy Van Winkle Barrel-Fermented Cigar

No, they didn't just dip cigars in booze and let dry. Though now that you mention it ...
Culture

What Is a Float Tank? A Beginner’s Guide to Flotation Therapy

Flotation therapy can help hormone regulation, stress and pain relief, and sleep quality. But how does all this happen through floating on your back in a windowless tank of water?
Culture

The Lady-Approved List of Valentine’s Day Gift Ideas for Her

Before you buy her a bottle of red wine, a box of chocolates, and lingerie, read this.
Culture

7 Best Finance Apps for Budgeting, Money-Saving, Investments, and More

Stop stressing out and get the most out of your precious cash.
Culture

Never Suffer from Post-Workout Soreness Again with the Theragun G3Pro

Theragun's latest the Theragun G3PRO was designed to help alleviate sore muscles and promote faster recover in everyone from professional athletes to your grandma after her PT appointment.
Culture

19 Classic Books Every Man Should Read (or Re-Read) in 2019

Make 2019 one for the books. Here's your reading list for the rest of the year.
Culture

9 Best Crime Documentaries on Netflix Right Now

If you're like the rest of the country, you're probably obsessed with true crime right now. Here are the best documentaries to get your fix.
Culture

10 Best History Podcasts for Learning About Everything From Pirates to Presidents

Everything has a history, whether it’s a country, a famous figure, a piece of art, or a popular snack food.
Culture

The Big List of Brands with Lifetime Warranties: Buy It Once, Have It Forever

Get gear that will last forever (or, at least, be replaced for free if it breaks).
Music

Best Love Songs: A Romantic Music Playlist That Isn’t Too Cheesy

This is not your typical love fest of sexy songs to help get you in the mood. This mix is here to offer a comforting, easy-going journey through the myriad highs and occasional lows of the ever-expanding universe that is L-O-V-E.
Culture

A Beginner’s Guide to the 6 Most Common Types of Cigars

Even if you're not a cigar aficionado, you should know enough to know what you like.