commonly known as the Fourth of July, is a federal
holiday in the United States commemorating the adoption of the
Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, declaring independence
from the Kingdom of Great Britain.
Day is commonly associated with fireworks, parades,
barbecues, carnivals, fairs, picnics,
concerts, baseball games, family reunions, political speeches and
ceremonies, and various other public and private events celebrating
the history, government, and traditions of the United States.
Independence Day is the national day of the United States.
During the American Revolution,
the legal separation of the Thirteen Colonies from Great Britain
occurred on July 2, 1776, when the Second Continental Congress voted
to approve a resolution of independence that had been proposed in June
by Richard Henry Lee of Virginia. After voting for independence,
Congress turned its attention to the Declaration of Independence, a
statement explaining this decision, which had been prepared by a
Committee of Five, with Thomas Jefferson as its principal author.
Congress debated and revised the Declaration, finally approving it on
July 4. A day earlier, John Adams had written to his wife
The second day of July, 1776, will be the most
memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to
believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as
the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the
day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It
ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games,
sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of
this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.
Adams's prediction was off by two days. From the
outset, Americans celebrated independence on July 4, the date shown on
the much-publicized Declaration of Independence, rather than on July
2, the date the resolution of independence was approved in a closed
session of Congress.
Historians have long disputed whether Congress
actually signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4, even though
Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin all later wrote
that they had signed it on that day. Most historians have
concluded that the Declaration was signed nearly a month after its
adoption, on August 2, 1776, and not on July 4 as is commonly
In a remarkable coincidence, both John Adams and
Thomas Jefferson, the only signers of the Declaration of
Independence later to serve as Presidents of the United
States, died on the same day: July 4, 1826, which was the 50th
anniversary of the Declaration. Although not a signer of the
Declaration of Independence, James Monroe, the Fifth President of the
United States, died on July 4, 1831. Calvin Coolidge, the
Thirtieth President, was born on July 4, 1872, and thus was the only
President to be born on Independence Day.
In 1777, thirteen gunshots
were fired, once at morning and again as evening fell, on July 4
in Bristol, Rhode Island. Philadelphia celebrated the first
anniversary in a manner a modern American would find quite
familiar: an official dinner for the Continental Congress, toasts,
13-gun salutes, speeches, prayers, music, parades, troop reviews,
and fireworks. Ships were decked with red, white, and blue
In 1778, General George
Washington marked July 4 with a double ration of rum for his
soldiers and an artillery salute. Across the Atlantic Ocean,
ambassadors John Adams and Benjamin Franklin held a dinner for
their fellow Americans in Paris, France.
In 1779, July 4 fell on a
Sunday. The holiday was celebrated on Monday, July 5.
In 1781, the Massachusetts
General Court became the first state legislature to recognize July
4 as a state celebration.
In 1783, Moravians in Salem,
North Carolina, held a celebration of July 4 with a challenging
music program assembled by Johann Friedrich Peter. This work was
titled "The Psalm of Joy".
In 1791 the first recorded use
of the name "Independence Day" occurred.
In 1820 the first Fourth of
July celebration was held in Eastport, Maine which remains the
largest in the state.
In 1870, the U.S. Congress
made Independence Day an unpaid holiday for federal employees.
In 1938, Congress changed
Independence Day to a paid federal holiday.
is a national holiday marked by patriotic displays. Similar to other
summer-themed events, Independence Day celebrations often take place
outdoors. Independence Day is a federal holiday, so all non-essential
federal institutions (like the postal service and federal courts) are
closed on that day. Many politicians make it a point on this day to
appear at a public event to praise the nation's heritage, laws,
history, society, and people.
Families often celebrate Independence Day by
hosting or attending a picnic or barbecue and take advantage of the
day off and, in some years, long weekend to gather with relatives.
Decorations (e.g., streamers, balloons, and clothing) are generally
colored red, white, and blue, the colors of the American flag. Parades
often are in the morning, while fireworks displays occur in the
evening at such places as parks, fairgrounds, or town squares.
Independence Day fireworks are often accompanied by
patriotic songs such as the national anthem "The Star-Spangled
Banner", "God Bless America", "America the Beautiful", "My Country,
'Tis of Thee", "This Land Is Your Land", "Stars and Stripes Forever",
and, regionally, "Yankee Doodle" in northeastern states and "Dixie" in
southern states. Some of the lyrics recall images of the Revolutionary
War or the War of 1812.
Firework shows are held in many states, and many
fireworks are sold for personal use or as an alternative to a public
show. Safety concerns have led some states to ban fireworks or limit
the sizes and types allowed. Illicit traffic transfers many fireworks
from less restrictive states.
A salute of one gun for each state in the United
States, called a “salute to the union,” is fired on Independence Day
at noon by any capable military base.
In 2009, New York City had the largest fireworks
display in the country, with over 22 tons of pyrotechnics exploded.
Other major displays are in Chicago on Lake Michigan; in San Diego
over Mission Bay; in Boston on the Charles River; in St. Louis on the
Mississippi River; in San Francisco over the San Francisco Bay; and on
the National Mall in Washington, D.C..
During the annual Windsor-Detroit International
Freedom Festival, Detroit, Michigan hosts one of the world's largest
fireworks displays, over the Detroit River, to celebrate Independence
Day in conjunction with Windsor, Ontario's celebration of Canada Day.
While the official observance always falls on July
4th, participation levels may vary according to which day of the week
the 4th falls on. If the holiday falls in the middle of the week, some
fireworks displays and celebrations may take place during the weekend
for convenience, again, varying by region.
The first week of July is typically one of the
busiest American travel periods of the year, as many people utilize
the holiday for extended vacation trips.
Unique or historical celebrations
ristol Fourth of July Parade in Bristol, Rhode Island is the oldest
continuous Independence Day celebration in the United States.
Since 1912, the Rebild Society,
a Danish-American friendship organization, has held a July 4th
weekend festival that serves as a homecoming for Danish-Americans
in the Rebild section of Denmark.
Since 1916, Nathan's Hot Dog Eating
Contest in Coney Island, Brooklyn, New York City
supposedly started as a way to settle a dispute among four
immigrants as to who was the most patriotic.
Since 1959, the International Freedom
Festival is jointly held in Detroit, Michigan and
Windsor, Ontario during the last week of June each year as a
mutual celebration of Independence Day and Canada Day (July 1). It
culminates in a large fireworks display over the Detroit River.
Numerous major and minor league baseball games
are played on Independence Day.
The famous Macy's fireworks
display usually held over the East River in New York City has been
televised nationwide on NBC since 1976. In 2009, the fireworks
display was returned to the Hudson River for the first time since
2000 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson's
exploration of that river.
Since 1970, the annual 10 kilometer
Peachtree Road Race is held in Atlanta, Georgia.
The Boston Pops Orchestra has
hosted a music and fireworks show over the Charles River Esplanade
called the "Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular" annually since
1973. The event was broadcast nationally from 1987 until 2002 on
the A&E Network, and has aired since 2003 on CBS.
On the Capitol lawn in Washington, D.C.
Held since 1785, the B, “A
Capitol Fourth,” a free concert, precedes the fireworks
and attracts over half a million people annually.