Did you know John Adams thought we all should celebrate the Fourth of July on the second of Julythe day in 1776 when the Second Continental Congress voted to approve Richard Henry Lees resolution of independence?
Adams wrote to his wife, Abigail, The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America … It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward.
But Americans chose to solemnize and celebrate on July 4, the date Congress finally approved the Declaration of Independence. Here are some of the ways our ancestors marked the occasion:
- In 1777, in Bristol, RI, 13 gunshots were fired on July 4, once at morning and again at evening. Philadelphians rang bells, fired guns and lit candles.
- In 1778, Gen. George Washington gave his soldiers a double ration of rum on July 4 and ordered an artillery salute.
- In 1781, Massachusetts recognized July 4 as a state celebration.
- In 1785, Bristol held a Fourth of July paradenow the United States oldest continuous Independence Day celebration.
- In 1817, the Erie Canal broke ground in Rome, NY.
- In 1828, Charles Carroll broke ground on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad.
- In 1848, workers laid the cornerstone of the Washington Monument.
- In 1870, Congress made Independence Day an unpaid holiday for federal employees.
- In 1938, the Fourth became a paid federal holiday (three years later, Congress corrected the omission of Washington, DC, employees from this legislation).
- In 1973, the Boston Pops Orchestra began hosting an annual music and fireworks show alongside the Charles River.
Both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, the only two signers of the Declaration of Independence to become president, died on July 4, 1826the 50th birthday of the United States. Get more Fourth of July history on this American University professors Web site.