236 Things Every American Should Know About Independence Day

So you've probably been an American all of your life, but who is to say you were awake during American history class? 

July 4th has been filled with quirky facts and random coincidences for hundreds of years. John Adams and Thomas Jefferson – our Founding Fathers – died on the exact same day: July 4,  1836. On Independence Day in 1979, the first baby was born at Disney Land.

Who knew?

Here are other great July moments, from 1776 to 2012.

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1776. America Is Born, Hell Yeah!


The Declaration of Independence is signed by 56 delegates.

1777. Why We Are All Pyromaniacs


Congress first authorizes the use of fireworks.

1778. Why We Drink on July 4


George Washington allows his soldiers double rations of rum.

1779. July 4 Moves To July 5


The holiday fell on a Sunday, so it was celebrated Monday, July 5.

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1781. July 4 Is Celebrated In The Bay State


The first official 4th of July celebration occurs in Massachusetts.

1785. Longest July 4 Streak


Bristol, Rhode Island, holds its first 4th of July celebration, starting the record of the oldest continuous Independence Day celebration in the U.S.

1787. July 4 Hits The Garden State


Government William Livingston of New Jersey proclaims the 4th as an official holiday in his state.

1788. July 4 Becomes A Common Practice


Annual celebration of the 4th becomes common among Americans with 10 states having ratified the Declaration of Independence.

1791. George's One And Only Speech


George Washington makes his first and only 4th of July address in Pennsylvania.

1793. John Quincy Adams Speaks


John Quincy Adams speaks in front of the inhabitants of Boston for the 4th of July.

1795. The Less Important Adams


Massachusetts Governor Samuel Adams lays the cornerstone of the New State House in Boston, Massachusetts.

1797. Fort Knox Celebrates July 4


The city of Elizabethtown, Kentucky, is founded and hosts its first 4th of July holiday.

1798. George Washington Is Put In Charge Again


George Washington becomes lieutenant general and commander-in-chief of the army.

1799. Children Of Slaves No Longer Enslaved For Life


In New York, July 4th of this year becomes the day after which children born to slaves are not permanent property of the slave owner; men are freed after 28 years of servitude, women after 25.

1800. Firework Ads Appear


Local advertisements for fireworks appear for the first time in New York City.

1801. The White House Opens Its Doors


The first public 4th of July reception occurs at the White House.

1802. West Point's Beginnings


The United States Military Academy at West Point opens.

1803. Cha-Ching!


The Louisiana Purchase is first announced to the public.

1804. Movin’ Out West

 

The first 4th of July celebration happens west of the Mississippi.

1805. The Adventures of Lewis & Clark

 


Lewis & Clark record in their journal that they have reached the Great Falls of Missouri.

1806. Kindness Towards The Natives


Meriwether Lewis, in his journal, writes that he is “unwilling after the service they had rendered to send [the Native Americans] away without a good store of provision.”

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1811. Nicholas Biddle Honors George Washington


Nicholas Biddle, a recognized American financier, makes a 4th of July tribute speech to George Washington.

1815. Building Begins on Baltimore's Washington Monument


The cornerstone of the Washington Monument in Baltimore, Maryland, is laid.

1817. On The Erie Canal


Construction of the Erie Canal begins.

1818. M-I-S-S-I-S-S-I-P-P-I


The 20-star United States flag becomes official as Mississippi enters the Union.

1819. Welcome, Illinois!


The 21-star United States flag becomes official as Illinois is admitted.

1820. Alabama and Maine Join


The 23-star United States flag becomes official as Alabama and Maine join the Union.

1822. Thank God For Missouri


The 24-star United States flag becomes official as Missouri enters the Union.

1823. Mission Possible


Mission San Francisco Solano is founded in Sonoma, California, the northernmost of the Franciscan missions.

1824. The Origin Of An Unlikely National Monument


Jebediah Smith, an American hunter, trapper, and fur trader, officially names a rock in Wyoming as Independent Rock, which is now a national monument. 

1825. Building the Ohio and Erie Canal


Ground breaking occurs for the construction of Ohio and Erie Canal.

1826. Death of Our Founding Fathers (Super Creepy)


John Adams and Thomas Jefferson die on the same day.

1827. Freedom!


The State of New York emancipates its slaves.

1828. The First Choo Choo Train


Construction begins on the first railroad track in the United States; Charles Carroll, the last surviving signer of the Declaration of Independence, breaks ground.

1829. Garrison's Antislavery Address


William Lloyd Garrison, a prominent abolitionist best known for the being the editor of The Liberator, makes a 4th of July, antislavery address at the Park Street Church.

1831. America's 5th President Dies


James Monroe dies from heart failure and tuberculosis.

1832. Cholera Outbreak in New York City


A cholera epidemic forces New York to have a subdued 4th of July celebration.

1834. Hairy Beginnings


John Crittenden, a former United States Attorney General, calls into order the Whig Party’s first organizational meeting.

1835. Green or Earl Grey?


George Hewes is honored as the last survivor of the Boston Tea Party.

1836. Ar-Kansas


The 25-star United States flag becomes official as Arkansas is admitted.

1837. The Great Lakes State Joins


The 26-star United States flag becomes official as Michigan joins the Union.

1838. Introduction of the Iowa Territory


The Iowa Territory is first recognized.

1845. Welcome, Tim Tebow!


The 27-star United States flag becomes official as Florida enters the Union.

1846. The Lonestar Joins the 27 Others


The 28-star United States flag becomes official as Texas is admitted.

1847. Welcome, Iowa!


The 29-star United States flag becomes official as Iowa joins the Union.

1848. Wisconsin Joins The Union


The 30-star United States flag becomes official as Wisconsin enters the Union.

1850. What a Way to Go


Zachary Taylor consumes a large amount of milk, apples, and cherries at 4th of July festivities, leading to his death from digestive issues 5 days later.

1851. Welcome, California!


The 31-star United States flag becomes official as California is admitted.

1852. Frederick Douglass' Celebrated Speech


Frederick Douglass gives his celebrated “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” speech.

1854. Thoreau's Antislavery Speech


Henry David Thoreau, an American author, gives a speech at an anti-slavery rally in Framingham, Massachusetts.

1855. Walt Whitman's "Leaves of Grass"


The first edition of Walt Whitman’s book of poetry “Leaves of Grass” is published. 

1858. Welcome, Minnesota!


The 32-star United States flag becomes official as Minnesota joins the Union.

1859. Oregon Becomes A State


The 33-star United States flag becomes official as Oregon enters the Union.

1860. Boat Races For Recreation


The New York Regatta, one of the first races for entertainment’s purpose that documentation still exists for, occurs.

1861. Kansas Is Admitted


The 34-star United States flag becomes official as Kansas is admitted.

1862. July 4 During the Civil War


John Hunt Morgan, Confederate general, begins a raid in Kentucky with 900 men that would go on to sweep Kentucky and lead to the capture of 1200 Union soldiers.

1863. West Virginia Joins Virginia In the Union


The 35-star United States flag becomes official as West Virginia joins the Union.

1864. July 4 During The Civil War


The Battle of Helena, part of the Civil War, secures eastern Arkansas for the Union.

1865. Welcome, Nevada!


The 36-star United States flag becomes official as Nevada enters the Union.

1866. Veterans Parade


10,000 war veterans parade in the streets of Philadelphia.

1867. Nebraska Becomes A State


The 37-star United States flag becomes official as Nebraska is admitted.

1868. An Impressive Tradition


Seward, Nebraska, holds a 4th of July celebration in their town square, which they have done continuously to this day.

1869. Bucking Bulls


The first rodeo in the world was held in Deer Trail, Colorado.

1870. Unpaid Vacation


Congress makes Independence Day an unpaid holiday for federal employees.

1872. The 30th President Is Born


Calvin Coolidge is born.

1873. Mark Twain Speaks in London


Mark Twain gives a 4th of July address in London.

1874. Soldiers and Sailors Monument


The Soldiers and Sailors Monument in Lancaster, Pennsylvania is dedicated to those Union soldiers killed during the Civil War.

1876. America's 100th Birthday


The centennial of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

1877. Colorado Becomes A State


The 38-star United States flag becomes official as Colorado joins the Union.

1878. Hugh Hefner's House Is Built


Arthur Rowland Kelly, an American architect who is known for designing the Playboy Mansion, is born.

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1879. Railroads Enter Las Vegas


The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad arrives in Las Vegas, heralding a new era of prosperity as waves of immigrants arrive.

1884. Lady Liberty is Born


Formal presentation of the Stature of Liberty takes place in Paris.

1885. One of Alpha Kappa Alpha's Founders Is Born


Lucy Slowe, one of the original 16 women to found Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, the first sorority founded by African-American women, is born.

1886. Lady Liberty Emigrates to America

 


The Statue of Liberty is dedicated in New York Harbor.

1887. Mount Hood Is First Illuminated For The Fourth


Mount Hood, a volcano in northern Oregon, is illuminated for the first time for the 4th of July.

1890. 5 More States Enter


The 43-star United States flag becomes official as North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Idaho and Washington all enter the Union. 

1891. Wyoming Becomes A State


The 44-star United States flag becomes official as Wyoming is admitted.

1892. Déjà Vu?


Two 4th of Julys occur due to Western Samoa changing the International Date Line

1894. Hawaiian Republic Is Established


The Republic of Hawaii is established.

1895. "America the Beautiful"


Katherine Lee Bates publishes “America the Beautiful”

1896. Utah Becomes A State


The 45-star United States flag becomes official as Utah joins the Union.

1898. Annexation of Hawaii


The Republic of Hawaii is annexed. 

1899. Mark Twain's Celebrated Speech


Mark Twain presents his “The Day We Celebrate” speech at the American Society 4th of July dinner.

1900. Louis Armstrong Lies About His Birthday


Louis Armstrong’s self-proclaimed birthday, which was later found out to be a month later (August 4, 1901).

1901. American Empire


The U.S. establishes a civilian colonial government in Manila, Philippines.

1902. The End Of A War


Theodore Roosevelt declares the end of the Philippine-American War.

1903. Can You Hear Me Now?


The first message communicated on a Pacific cable via telegraph was made by Theodore Roosevelt from San Francisco, California, to Manila, Philippines.

1904. Nathaniel Hawthorne Turns 100!


The centennial of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s birthday.

1905. Record Length


The Philadelphia Athletics defeat the Boston Red Sox 4-2 in a 20-inning baseball game, tied for the longest at the time.

1906. The Car Accident Of Car Accidents


Henry Augustus Ward, an American naturalist and geologist in Buffalo, New York, becomes the first man to ever die from getting hit by a car.

1907. When Tarzan Meets Tom Sawyer


Gordon Griffith, an American actor who was the first to portray both Tom Sawyer and Tarzan on film, is born.

1908. Oklahoma!


The 46-star United States flag becomes official as Oklahoma enters the Union.

1909. Abraham Lincoln Commemorated


A 16-foot pedestal and bust of Abraham Lincoln is dedicated in Scranton, Pennsylvania.

1910. George Washington Honored

 


A statue of George Washington is unveiled at Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

1911. Record Temperatures


A summer heat wave causes 380 people to die of a heatstroke in New Hampshire.

1912. Arizona Turns 100 This Year!


The 48-star United States flag becomes official as Arizona is admitted.

1913. Wilson's Gettysburg Address


Woodrow Wilson gives his “Address at Gettysburg,” 50 years after the battle was fought. 

1914. The First Of Its Kind


Dodge City, Kansas, hosts the first-ever motorcycle race in the United States.

1915. An Addition To the Dictionary


The term “Americanization,” in which an immigrant to the United States assimilates into American society and culture, is brought to general use.

1916. Old-Fashioned Joey Chestnuts


According to legend, four immigrants have a hot dog eating contest at Nathan’s on Coney Island in Brooklyn, New York, to determine who was most patriotic.

1919. A Historic Heavyweight Bout


Jack Dempsey defeats Jess Willard in a heavyweight championship boxing bout.

1921. A Shoutout To The Shining


The infamous date of the picture that appears at the end of the movie The Shining.

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1922. Start Your Engines


The National Championship Motorcycle Race occurs in Wichita, Kansas.

1923. Largest KKK Gathering


Kokomo, Indiana hosts the largest Ku Klux Klan gathering in history with over 200,000 in attendance.

1925. KKK March Hoodless

 

3,000 Ku Klux Klan members march hoodless through Grand Rapids, Missouri after a law targeting the Klan banned “hooded marches.”

1926. 150 Years


The 150th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

1927. A Playwright Is Born


Neil Simon, an American playwright who wrote Biloxi Blues and Bright Beach Memoirs is born.

1929. An NFL Owner Is Born

 


Al Davis, principal owner of the NFL’s Oakland Raiders from 1972 to 2011, is born.

1931. What's In Cleveland?


The 1st fireworks display is held at Cleveland Stadium in Ohio.

1933. Oakland's Baby


Work begins on the Oakland Bay Bridge.

1937. Where In The World Is Amelia Earhart?


Searchers continue to look for Amelia Earhart, who had disappeared 2 days earlier.

1938. Paid Vacation (Thank you, Congress!)


Congress changes Independence Day to a paid federal holiday. 

1939. The Luckiest Man On The Face Of The Earth


A terminally ill Lou Gehrig announces his retirement from baseball and proclaims himself “the luckiest man on the face of the Earth.”

1940. You Can Have It


Franklin Delano Roosevelt official turns over the library bearing his name to the federal government.

1941. July 4 During World War II


Franklin Delano Roosevelt proclaims the holiday as an inspiration for world peace in a radio broadcast address.

1942. Hard at Work During July 4


Following the beginning of World War II, Franklin Delano Roosevelt encourages people to continue working and to not take a day off; the White House remains open.

1943. July 4 Still During World War II


U.S. armed-forces meet heavy Japanese resistance in the Solomon Islands.

1944. Letters From Iwo Jima


Fighter pilots from USS Cabot attack Iwo Jima.

1945. Anti-Atomic Bomb


Leo Szilard drafts Version 2 of the Szilard Petition, urging Harry Truman to carefully consider the repercussions of an atomic bomb on mankind.

1946. Filipinos Gone Wild


The Philippines gains full independence from the United States.

1947. July 4 Hits The Screen


4th of July ceremonies are televised for the first time.

1949. LA's Longest Serving Mayor


Los Angeles Mayor Fletcher Bowron, who held the position for the longest in history, graces the cover of Time Magazine.

1950. The Harry Trumans And The Sharks


Harry Truman signs Public Law 600, which allows Puerto Rico to draft its own constitution.

1951. Nat King Cole Is Music's Leading Man


“Too Young” by Nat King Cole tops the music charts.

1952. Charlie Brown Hits The Scene


“Peanuts” cartoon strips, like the one below, become very common.

1953. Lady Marmalade Tops The Chart


“The Song from Moulin Rouge (Where is Your Heart)” by Percy Faith is the #1 song of the day.

1954. The Fugitive's Inception


Sam Sheppard is falsely accused of murdering his pregnant wife Marilyn Sheppard, the basis off of which the movie The Fugitive is.

1955. It's Dwight's Time, Literally


Dwight Eisenhower graces the cover of Time Magazine.

1956. A Hall of Fame Matchup


Yogi Berra and the New York Yankees defeat Ted Williams and the Boston Red Sox 9-4.

1958. One Eyed, One Horned, Flying Purple People Eater


The iconic “Purple People Eater” by Sheb Wooley tops the music charts of the day.

1959. Brrr!


The 49th star is added to the United States flag, as Alaska becomes a state.

1960. Say Aloha!


The 50-star United States flag is revealed, as Hawaii becomes a state.

1961. Whodunit?


The flag that had continuously flown over Betsy Ross’ grave is stolen.

1962. JFK Speaks


John F. Kennedy makes a speech at Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania discussing the enduring relevance of the Constitution and Declaration of Independence.

1963. Down Goes Diem


According to the CIA, it is announced that South Vietnamese officers are plotting a coup against president Ngo Dinh Diem

1964. JFK Reads America A Bedtime Story


John F. Kennedy broadcasts a reading of the Declaration of Independence.

1965. Fight For Your Right


Gay Rights Demonstrations occur in Philadelphia.

1966. LBJ Objected, But It Passes


Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Freedom of Information Act.

1968. July 4 in Vietnam


Anti-Vietnam War demonstrations interrupt a speech given by Vice President Hubert Humphrey.

1969. Music At Its Finest


Atlanta holds the International Pop Festival, feature musicians such as Janis Joplin and Joe Cocker, which has over 100,000 in attendance in high heat.

1970. Run, Georgia, Run


The first Peachtree Road Race is held in Atlanta.

1971. A Smart Monkey Is Born


Koko, a Lowland gorilla who is now able to understand both considerable sign language and much spoken English, is born in the San Francisco Zoo.

1972. Korean Unification?


Announcements were made simultaneously in North and South Korea that the two nations negotiated an agreement to discuss reunification.

1973. Snap, Crackle, Pop


The first Boston Pops Orchestra performance is held over the Charles River Esplanade.

1974. Elvis Is A Black Belt?


Elvis Presley gives a karate demonstration in Memphis, Tennessee.

1975. Willie Nelson


In Texas, it is proclaimed Willie Nelson Day.

1976. Bicentennial


The bicentennial of the Declaration of Independence.

1977. A Windy July 4


A derecho, or series of intense winds, hits Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio over the course of the day reaching up to 115 miles per hour.

1978. Pardon The Interruption


American sports personality and TV host Tony Reali is born.

1979. A Birth In The Happiest Place On Earth


Teresa Salcedo, the first baby to be born at Disneyland, is born.

1980. Hostages in Iran


4th of July celebration have a somber tone due to the 53 American citizens held hostage in Iran.

1981. McEnroe Cannot Be Kept Quiet


American John McEnroe defeats Bjorn Borg in the Wimbledon finals (4-6, 7-6, 7-6, 6-4)

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1983. Can't Touch This


Dave Righetti pitches a no-hitter for the New York Yankees against the Boston Red Sox, the first by a left-handed Yankee since 1917.

1984. NASCAR's Finest


Richard Petty, one of two drivers to win the NASCAR championship seven times (Dale Earnhardt Jr. is the other), won his 200th race.

1985. Is It Over Yet?


The New York Mets defeat the Atlanta Braves 16-13 in a 19-inning game that lasts over 6 hours.

1986. The Queen of New York's 100th Anniversary


The State of Liberty’s centennial as a symbol of hope in the New York Harbor.

1987. The U.S. Takes Over The All-England Club


American Martina Navritilova defeats German Steffi Graf 7-5, 6-3 to win the Ladies’ Singles title at Wimbledon.

1988. A Big Mistake


A U.S. warship in the Persian Gulf mistakes an Iranian civilian plane for a fighter plane, killing approximately 290 people.

1989he Grateful Dead Come To Life


Truckin’ Up to Buffalo, one of five albums released by the Grateful Dead in 2005, is recorded in Ralph Wilson Stadium in Buffalo, New York.

1990. NKOTB


400 New Kids on the Block fans treated for heat exhaustion at a concert in Minnesota.

1991. Paul Broussard Murdered


Paul Broussard is murdered by 10 teenagers in a gay-bashing outside a nightclub in Texas.

1992. The Navy Brings George Washington Back To Life


The Navy unveils the new aircraft carrier the USS George Washington.

1993. Walk The Line


Johnny Cash, country musician, recites his poem “Rugged Old Flag” in Washington, D.C.

1994. Gooooooooooooooooooollll!!!


Cobi Jones and the United States National Soccer Team lose to the Brazilians in the Round of 16 of the FIFA World Cup 1-0.

1996. July 4 in Space


Astronauts on the Space Shuttle Columbia send 4th of July messages.

1997. Mars Invasion


NASA’s Pathfinder probe lands on the surface of Mars.

1998. Stop, Drop, And Roll


Florida forest fires, which have already forced well over 100,000 people to evacuate their houses, reach Daytona Beach.

1999. Sampras' Wimbledon Dominance


Pete Sampras wins Wimbledon for the 6th time in 7 years, beating Bjorn Borg’s record of 5 championships.

2000. Come Sail Away!


“Operation Sail 200,” the largest ever gathering of ships in one place, occurs in New York City.

2001. Communication With Outer Space


Astronauts at the International Space Station wish Americans “Happy Independence Day.”

2002. July 4, Post-9/11 


Despite the intense security measures due to 9/11, Americans celebrate.

2003. Why Not Celebrate With The Bad Guy?


U.S. soldiers celebrate the 4th of July at Saddam Hussein’s hometown palace in Tikrit, Iraq.

2004. Ground Zero Reonstruction Begins


The cornerstone of the Freedom Tower is laid in New York City.

2005. Intergalactic Collision


NASA slams its spacecraft Deep Impact into the comet Tempel 1.

2006. The Discovery Takes Flight


The space shuttle Discovery launches from the U.S.

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2007. Taking The Oath


1,000 individuals from 75 different countries take citizenship oath at Walt Disney World in Florida.

2008. Chestnut Loves Weiners

Joey Chestnut ties Takeru Kobayashi in the annual Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest, forcing a 5 hotdog playoff which Chestnut won.

2009. The Queen Is Reunited With Her Crown


The crown of the Statue of Liberty reopens to the public after its closure post-9/11.

2010. Cleanup On Aisle Four


Three months after the BP oil leak was discovered, cleanup crews clean the Gulf Coast.

2011. Reagan Honored


A statue of Ronald Reagan is unveiled in London to mark the 100th anniversary of his birth.

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Teddy Bommarito

Teddy is currently a sophomore at Dartmouth College studying environmental studies and romance language. He is a member of Dartmouth's rugby team and will be studying at the Univeristy of Barcelona this winter.

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