Saturday, July 03, 2010
* Independence Day, commonly known as July 4th or the Fourth of July, commemorates the Continental Congress’ adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. The document, primarily written by Thomas Jefferson, served as a formal announcement that the 13 American colonies were no longer part of the British Empire and would henceforth be free and independent states. Regarded as the birthday of the United States of America, the day is typically celebrated with parades, fireworks, ceremonies, barbecues and family gatherings. * The major objection to being ruled by Britain was taxation without representation. The colonists had no say in the decisions of English Parliament. * In May, 1776, after nearly a year of trying to work our their differences with England, the colonies sent delegates to the Second Continental Congress. Finally, in June, admitting that their efforts were hopeless, a committee was formed to compose the formal Declaration of Independence. Headed by Thomas Jefferson, the committee also included John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Philip Livingston and Roger Sherman. On June 28, 1776, Thomas Jefferson presented the first draft of the declaration to Congress. * Betsy Ross, according to legend, sewed the first American flag in May or June 1776, as commissioned by the Congressional Committee. * Independence Day was first celebrated in Philadelphia on July 8, 1776. * The Liberty Bell sounded from the tower of Independence Hall on July 8, 1776, summoning citizens to gather for the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence by Colonel John Nixon. * On June 14, 1777, the Continental Congress, looking to promote national pride and unity, adopted the national flag. "Resolved: that the flag of the United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation." * The first public Fourth of July event at the White House occurred in 1804. * The first Independence Day celebration west of the Mississippi occurred at Independence Creek and was celebrated by Lewis and Clark in 1805. * On June 24, 1826, Thomas Jefferson sent a letter to Roger C. Weightman, declining an invitation to come to Washington, D.C., to help celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. It was the last letter that Jefferson, who was gravely ill, ever wrote. * Both Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, died on Independence Day, July 4, 1826. * In 1941, Congress declared July 4 a federal legal holiday. * The 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence did not sign at the same time, nor did they sign on July 4, 1776. The official event occurred on August 2, 1776, when 50 men signed it. Later that year, five more signed separately and one added his name in a later year. Thomas McKean was the last to sign in January, 1777. * The origin of Uncle Sam probably began in 1812, when Samuel Wilson was a meat packer who provided meat to the US Army. The meat shipments were stamped with the initials, U.S. Someone joked that the initials stood for "Uncle Sam". This joke eventually led to the idea of Uncle Sam symbolizing the United States government.