The Fourth of July, otherwise known as Independence Day is always celebrated on its calendar to acknowledge the United States’ independence from Britain.
Though this day has been declared the holiday, the process of American independence took much longer than a single day.
On June 7, 1776, Richard Henry Lee of Virginia introduced a resolution to free the United States from British rule. On June 10th, a committee, lead by Thomas Jefferson was formed to write a document for the occasion. Today, that document is known as the Declaration of Independence.
On July 4th, not a single person had signed the Declaration, though most had signed it by August of that year. On man, Thomas McKean did not place his signature on the Declaration until 1781. However, July 4th was chosen as the day of celebration and is a day of great festivities in the United States.
The first official Fourth of July celebration took place in Massachusetts in 1781. Other territories and states had taken up the tradition by the middle of the 19th century. Today, people in all fifty US states take part in parades, set off fireworks and have picnics to honor our ancestors who fought for our freedom.
Parades often take place in mid morning or just before noon. They include Independence Day floats, baseball teams, and majorettes twirling batons, and marching bands. People line the parade route and wave tiny American flags. After the parade, families and friends unite to have a picnic or BBQ, either in a backyard or at a beach. Steaks, ribs, hamburgers, hotdogs, corn on the cob, fried or barbecued chicken, deviled eggs, fresh sliced tomatoes, lemonade, cold beer and iced or sun tea are all part of the fare.
In the evening, people set out to find the biggest and best fireworks display. Red, white and blue showers of color shoot high into the sky, as a spectacular display of patriotism.
During the War of 1812, Francis Scott Key wrote the lyrics to the Star Spangled Banner, after witnessing the bombardment of Fort McHenry. The song was published under the title, “Defense of Fort M’ Henry,” and was circulated around Baltimore. It gained popularity and was performed at public gatherings. The title was changed and on March 3, 1931, the patriotic song was adopted as the national anthem of the United States. Today, the Star Spangled Banner is played at all public functions on the Fourth of July.
The Liberty Bell is one of the United States’ most beloved symbols. It was ordered from Whitechapel Foundry in England in 1751. The 2,000 pound bell arrived in American, but cracked the first time it was rung in March, 1751. The crack follows the line of the clapper and was probably caused by improper use. Today, the Liberty Bell stands as a symbol of the United States’ independence from British rule.
Uncle Sam is another great symbol of our country, though there is no written record of origin. In the early 19th century, Samuel Wilson supplied large amounts of meat to the US Army. He stamped the crates that the meat was shipped in with the letters U.S. Soldiers joked that the crates of meat were a gift from “Uncle Sam” Wilson and the name was adapted for the United States government.
The man who created the character of Uncle Sam was Thomas Nast, a political cartoonist. He also drew the clean shaven Yankee Doodle, while Uncle Sam always sported the white beard and top hat, along with patriotic clothing. Uncle Sam first appeared in Nast’s cartoons in 1838. However, it was James Montogmery Flagg who made Uncle Sam famous with the WWI recruitment poster where the white bearded man pointed his finger and stated, “We Want You!”
Over the years Uncle Sam has come to be recognized world-wide as a symbol of America’s power, determination, resolve and strength. Men depicting the mythological statesman often appear in parades and at picnics on the Fourth of July.