History of the 4th of July

It’s a big American holiday today and that calls for our usual special posts. Last year we covered the American Revolution, today we’ll cover one of the first holidays it created and why we might be celebrating on the wrong day.


A Quick Recap

It’s the mid 1770s in the British Colonies and sentiment is turning towards independence. The colonists had no representation within the British government, were subjected to taxes they had no influence over, and no amount of peaceful protest, petition, or open conflict had changed anything. With more British troops pouring in to maintain order and enforce the laws, public opinion only deteriorated.

On June 11th, 1776, the Continental Congress formed a committee to draft a statement justifying the separation of the colonies from British rule. They created a scathing document outlining every crime against the colonies as they saw it. This was everything from inhibiting them from creating their own laws to interfering with their ability to conduct trade to malicious acts against the colonists lives.

On July 2nd, the Continental Congress formally decided on Independence. This was the vote that would start the colonists on a path to becoming a nation. John Adams believed July 2nd would be the day all would celebrate their independence. The Declaration of Independence was written already, but it would not be the formal response until Congress approved it on July 4th.


The First Celebrations

There was an entire war ahead of the colonies, but that didn’t prevent the celebration from kicking off early. At the time, it was traditional for colonists to hold celebrations i honor of King George III’s birthday. Instead, they held mock funerals for the King throughout the summer of 1776. It was meant as a symbolic end of the monarchy’s rule. The celebrations featured bon fires, parades, concerts, and cannons firing.

In 1777, Philadelphia would hold the first 4th of July celebration, even as the war still raged on. There were bells ringing, bon fires, and fireworks. It was an even wilder celebration than what we already do today. On the brink of defeating the British, George Washington even doubled the rum ration to all his soldiers for the 4th of July in 1781. The Revolutionary War ended on September 3rd, 1783, a day we don’t celebrate, eclipsed by the 4th of July. Throughout the 1800s, the states would make the 4th a state holiday, but there was no official Federal position on the matter.

Finally, in 1870, Congress would make the 4th of July a Federal Holiday, to be celebrated throughout the states. This would be further supported in 1941, when Congress affirmed it was a paid holiday for all Federal employees.


The 4th Today

The 4th has continued to be a massive celebration. There will be parades, fire works, carnivals, picnics, and more. It’s a long day and night of partying and celebrating our nation’s very existence. Sit back, relax, enjoy the fire works, and don’t party too wild.



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