A picture of an American flag with the words July 4, 1776, United States of America.

Celebrating America’s Birthday: History Of Independence Day

July 4th Historical Facts & Myths About America’s Birthday

Since the Fourth of July, (which I call Independence Day) is one of my favorite holidays, I was surprised to discover that many people don’t realize it’s considered America’s birthday.

If you want to find out what really happened on July 4th, keep reading. This post will tell you all about America’s birthday, its history, and why it’s so important today.

Don’t want to read the whole post? The Fourth of July holiday marks the day when the Declaration of Independence was adopted in Philadelphia by the Continental Congress. The document proclaimed that the 13 colonies were no longer under the control of Great Britain.

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An image of of the text of the first paragraph of the Declaration of Independence which is engraved on the all of the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia.
The beginning of the Declaration of Independence is engraved on the wall of the Museum of the American Revolution.

A great place to celebrate America’s Birthday is at Washington’s home in Virginia: Mount Vernon!

When Is America’s Birthday?

The Fourth of July holiday in America marks the day in 1776 when the Second Continental Congress unanimously adopted the Declaration of Independence. This document proclaimed the official separation of the 13 original colonies from Great Britain.

Since that day, July 4, 1776 has been considered America’s “birthday,” making Independence Day 2024, America’s 248th birthday.

Fast Fact: Most people don’t realize that the Revolutionary War wasn’t won until 1783!

The iconic Independence Hall in Philadelphia is a brick building with a tall church-like steeple. This building is where history was made on July 4th, which is now considered America's birthday.
Independence Hall in Philadelphia is where the Declaration of Independence was agreed upon.

When Was The First Independence Day Celebration?

According to the Library of Congress, the residents of Philadelphia celebrated the first anniversary of American independence (1777),  and George Washington gave his soldiers double rations of rum on July 4, 1778 to celebrate.

Going to Philadelphia for the Fourth of July holiday? Don’t miss this Philadelphia Old City Historic Walking Tour: Top 10 Sites

But it wasn’t until after the War of 1812 that July 4th celebrations spread across the new nation.

On June 28, 1870, Congress passed a law making Independence Day a federal holiday. Today, the day continues to be celebrated with parades, fireworks shows and parties.

A Fourth of July celebration with fireworks exploding in a night sky celebrating Americas birthday.
Fireworks are a big part of celebrating America’s birthday.

What Actually Happened On July 4?

Fun Fact: The Declaration of Independence wasn’t signed on July 4, 1776. In fact, independence was formally declared on July 2, 1776, a date that John Adams believed would be the most memorable day in the history of America.

On July 4, 1776, Congress approved the final text of the Declaration, BUT it wasn’t signed until August 2, 1776.

Young drummer boys wearing red shirts, black hats and white pants, portray a colonial band at Fort McHenry.
All kinds of celebrations take place on America’s birthday, the Fourth of July.

Basic Facts About The Declaration Of Independence

Fifty-six men signed the Declaration of Independence.

Of those, Pennsylvania had the most with 9, followed by 7 from Virginia and 5 from both Massachusetts and New Jersey.

The youngest signer was Thomas Lynch Jr. of Hopsewee Plantation in South Carolina. Another signer was Arthur Middleton of the Middleton Place outside Charleston.

There were 2.5 million people living in America in July 1776. The current population is about 342 million.

The Boston Tea Party took place on December 16, 1773, well before the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

Visit Boston for the Fourth of July and explore lots of historic Revolutionary War sites!

A patina statue of George Washington on horseback at West Point.
Statue of George Washington at West Point Military Academy, who the commander of our forces during the Revolutionary War and first president of the United States.

The History Independence Day / The Fourth Of July

Before the Continental Congress declared Independence, America was part of the Kingdom of Great Britain (now called the United Kingdom).

In the 1600s, people from Great Britain settled in what is now North America. Between 1607 and 1732, the British founded 13 colonies: Virginia, New York, Massachusetts, Maryland, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Delaware, North Carolina, South Carolina, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Georgia.

America’s birthday is celebrated as a result of the Declaration of Independence being approved in 1776.

A room full of colonial tables and chairs with green tablecloths is where America's birthday was agreed upon in Constitution Hall.
This is the room where the founders agreed upon the Declaration of Independence.

Facts & Myths About America’s Birthday

Thomas Jefferson is often called the “author” of the Declaration of Independence. Although he was indeed the principal contributor, he wasn’t the only person to work on the document.

The home of Thomas Jefferson, Monticello is a brick building with a white dome and portch.
Thomas Jefferson lived at Monticello, which can still be visited today.

Jefferson was a member of a five-person committee appointed by the Continental Congress to write the Declaration. The committee included Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Robert Livingston, and Roger Sherman.

Related Story: Read about a house in Virginia that helped hide the country’s most important documents including the Declaration of Independence and Constitution.

America’s Birthday: Fourth Of July Celebration Facts

The first known instance of Fourth of July fireworks was in Philadelphia in 1777 and George Washington gave his soldiers double rations of rum on July 4, 1778 to celebrate.

Back in 1778, when the delegates in Philadelphia debated how Americans should observe their newly declared independence, William Henry Drayton of Drayton Hall argued for the day to be one of celebration with “certain grand fireworks,” rather than one of “fasting and mourning” as another South Carolinian proposed.

According to the American Pyrotechnics Association, Americans now spend more than $1 billion on fireworks each year.

And according to the National Sausage and Hot Dog Council, Americans eat 150 million hotdogs on July Fourth. (That’s enough hotdogs to stretch from Washington to Los Angeles).

Coney Island, New York, hosts a famous, televised hotdog eating contest every year on July Fourth. (I can’t watch. Guh!)

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FAQs About America’s Birthday

How Old Is America In 2024?

Since America’s birthday is accepted as being July 4, 1776, the United States will be 248 years old in 2024.

When Did America Get Independence?

America got independence in 1783 after eight years of fighting during the American Revolution.

From Whom Did America Get Their Independence?

America fought Great Britain for eight years during the American Revolution before it gained independence.

Who Died On The Fourth Of July?

👉 Two of the most famous signers of the Declaration of Independence – John Adams and third President Thomas Jefferson both died on July 4, 1826, on the nation’s 50th anniversary in an eerie coincidence.

The two men disliked each other immensely and Adams’ last words were “Thomas Jefferson still survives,” but he was mistaken. Jefferson had died five hours earlier.

👉 James Monroe, the fifth president, died on July 4, 1831.

👉 Zachary Taylor, the 12th president, died on July 9, 1850, but it’s generally accepted that he succumbed from complications from eating spoiled fruit and milk during the July Fourth celebration that year.

👉 A Birth On Independence Day: Calvin Coolidge, the 30th president, was born on July 4, 1872.

Give Me Your ‘John Hancock’

Ever heard of the expression, ‘give me your John Hancock?’

That’s because founding father John Hancock was the first to sign the Declaration of Independence and his signature was the largest and most readable on the document.

An aged-looking photo of the Declaration with a closeup of John Hancock's signature.
John Hancock signed the Declaration boldly.

He reportedly wanted to make sure that King George III could read his name “without his spectacles.”

‘Giving your John Hancock’ is an expression for putting your signature on something.

Wrap-Up Of America’s Birthday

It’s fun to get together with family and friends and celebrate this special holiday with fireworks and festivities, but keep in mind that Independence Day marks the birth of a nation founded on principles of freedom, democracy, and independence.

It is also a time to think about the sacrifices of those who fought for our liberties during the Revolutionary War and to recommit to the ideals that unite us as Americans.

Fun and freedom go hand in hand. I’d love to hear how you celebrate this special holiday!

Special Places To Visit

Need a place to visit for the holiday? I recommend the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia where you can see George Washington’s actual Revolutionary War Tent.

Another important place to visit is George Washington’s Mount Vernon. Plan to spend the day! There is so much to see!

Valley Forge, where Washington’s troops spent the winter of 1776 is a beautiful park to drive through or explore on foot or a bike.

Much like the Gettysburg battlefield, the Valley Forge National Historic Park comprises 3,500 acres of picturesque, rolling hills.

There are lots of historical sites to see in Pennsylvania, including the town of Bethlehem, that has building that was used as a hospital during the Revolutionary War.

Washington DC is well known for its spectacular fireworks show. While you’re there, take a guided sightseeing tour of the city.

Mount Vernon, the home of George Washington, is a yellow house with red roof.
Mount Vernon has a fantastic fireworks show on the Fourth of July.

Planning A Trip For The Fourth Of July?

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🎡 Discover the best tours and activities with Viator or Get Your Guide. Explore iconic landmarks, take guided tours and immerse yourself in history.

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