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A Brief History of the 4th of July

As we are all aware, the 4th of July is a national holiday in which we celebrate our independence, but do we know where and how it all began? Do we understand the history behind this special day? Our Pittsburgh limo service specialists thought it would be interesting to do some digging and briefly discuss the history of our Independence Day and how it all began.
The 4th of July only became a federal holiday in 1941, less than a century ago, but the history and tradition of this day go further back. Our Independence Day finds its roots in the 18th Century during the American Revolution.
On the 2nd of July, 1776, America earned its independence after the Continental Congress assented to independence in a landslide vote. On the 3rd of July, only one day after the fact, 13 American colonies adopted an iconic document drafted by Thomas Jefferson, the Declaration of Independence. The following day, which was the 4th of July, America, albeit not completely united, celebrated its first Independence Day. Since 1776 to date the tradition has been carried on, with millions of patriots celebrating each year with fireworks, concerts, cookouts, parades, barbecues, family gatherings, and much more.
That is, simply, a basic outline of how the 4th of July came to be our Independence Day, but now we would like to delve into some more detail on the intricacies of the events that led up to our actual Independence. Enjoy!

Road to Independence

The very first battles of the Revolutionary War took place in April of 1775; just a handful of colonists at the time advocated for complete independence from Britain and they were widely considered radical. By 1776, however, numerous colonists had joined the revolution and were demanding for independence as revolutionary sentiments and a disdain for the British spread across the country, primarily influenced by anti-British text such as ‘Common Sense’ by Thomas Paine.
In June of 1776, the Continental Congress gathered in the Pennsylvania State House, which would later be known as ‘Independence Hall’. Richard Henry Lee, a Virginia delegate, then introduced a motion demanding for the independence of the American colonies.
There ensued a heated debate and the vote was postponed by Congress to give a five-man committee including Virginia’s Thomas Jefferson, Massachusetts’s John Adams, Connecticut’s Roger Sherman, Pennsylvania’s Benjamin Franklin, and New York’s Robert R. Livingston a chance to present a formal statement justifying the Independence of the colonies from Britain.
Fun Fact: John Adams rejected an invitation to celebrate Independence on the 4th of July 1776 because he believed the correct date was supposed to be the 2nd of July. Also, in an ironical twist of fate, he would later die on the 4th of July 1826, the 50th Independence anniversary, alongside fellow founding father Thomas Jefferson.
The reason for Adam’s protest was because congress voted in favor of Lee’s motion for independence on the 2nd of July in a technically unanimous vote. New York had abstained from voting at first but later gave in and voted affirmatively. John Adams would later write to his wife that, ‘the 2nd of July will be remembered by subsequent generations as a great anniversary that should be a celebration with parades, games, guns, sports, and illuminations that will light up the continent from one end to the other’.
What a coincidence. We are not sure if the American people simply adopted Adam’s vision or if this was just a lucky prediction of how Independence Day would be celebrated centuries later. 
Despite the vote having been confirmed on the 2nd of July, the Declaration of Independence, which was largely drafted by Thomas Jefferson, was officially adopted by Congress on the 4th of July and from then on the day has been celebrated as America’s Independence Day.

4th of July Celebrations

Before the revolution, colonists would celebrate the king’s birthday each year with bells, bonfires, speechmaking, parades, and processions. In contrast, on the 4th of July 1776, colonists celebrated their Independence with mock funerals of King George III, which was meant to symbolize the end of his reign in America and the triumph of freedom and liberty.
Celebrations included concerts, parades, bonfires, cannon and musket fire etc., following the first public readings of the Declaration of Independence. The first commemoration of the 4th of July was held in Philadelphia in 1777 at a time when Congress was preoccupied with the ongoing revolutionary war. George Washington was known to issue rations of rum to his soldiers as a way of celebrating their independence.
In 1781, just prior to the American victory for Yorktown, the state of Massachusetts became the first to recognize the 4th of July as a public holiday. After the Revolutionary War, people from all over America continued to celebrate the 4th of July every year. This gave the citizens a sense of unity and gave political leaders a platform to address the citizens.

A Federal Holiday

This patriotic celebration became even more popular after the war in 1812 when, once again, America faced the British. Much later, in 1870, Congress declared the 4th of July a Federal Holiday and in 1941 the provision was amended to make the day a paid holiday to all federal employees. Over the centuries, the political significance of the holiday has declined, but the day’s iconic standing as a symbol of patriotism has risen.
Falling right in mid-summer, the 4th of July has in time become a time for leisure activities; family get-togethers, community events, city-wide parades, fireworks, neighborhood barbeques, beach bonfires, and many more fun activities. Today, the most prominent symbol of this day is the American flag while the most common tune is the Star-Spangled Banner and it is likely that this form of celebration will persist for a long time to come.
Now you know how it all began and we hope you have a newfound reverence for this special day. Have a wonderful Independence Day. Viva!

Posted on May 15 2019

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