Independence Day is often referred to as the Fourth of July, but is it? That’s one diversionary conversation you might have with your politically strident relatives. Here are details, as well as other fun facts, for discussion to help keep the peace. You’re welcome.
We celebrate on July 4 but not because of what you may think. Our Continental Congress declared independence on July 2, 1776, a full year after open hostilities began in April 1775. And 50 of the 56 signatories signed on Aug. 2, 1776. Last to sign was Thomas McKean, in January 1777.
So, how did we end up celebrating July 4th? According to Joe Carter of the Acton Institute, in 1824, factions of the Democratic-Republican party, which later morphed into the Democratic and Whig parties, were squabbling. Both sides printed supportive advertising circulars with the Declaration of Independence as an attention-getter. And these circulars carried the date of July 4, 1776.
Well, Independence Day celebrations weren’t common in 1824, but they began popping up afterwards on, you guessed it, July 4. Congress took notice and, in 1870, declared Independence Day as a national holiday on, you guessed it again, July 4. The deal was sealed in 1941, when Congress made it a paid federal holiday.
OK, the signed declaration is the official one, but it wasn’t the original. The original was what Congress agreed upon on July 2nd. The one they signed was printed on July 5th and was attached to the “rough journal of the Continental Congress for July 4th.”
Robert Livingston, of New York, one of the five original drafters (who mainly delegated the writing job to Thomas Jefferson), never signed. Why? He thought it was too soon.
If that doesn’t divert your radical relatives, then try these facts.
Which colony had the most people in 1776? Our U.S. Census Bureau estimated that it wasn’t New York (340,210), Pennsylvania (434,373), Massachusetts (378,787), North Carolina (393,751), or South Carolina (249,073). No, it was us!
We Virginians, at that time, numbered 747,610, or 72 percent more people than the second-largest colony, Pennsylvania. Overall, our fledgling nation numbered 2.5 million in 1776, versus 327 million in 2018, according to a fact sheet published by the Census Bureau.
Census folks also said that $332 million worth of fireworks was imported into the U.S. last year, as well as $6.3 million worth of U.S. flags, most of which were made in China. But we exported $20.8 million in U.S. flags at the same time. And they estimate 61 percent of American households have an American flag.
Editors at WalletHub.com predict we’ll eat some 150 million hot dogs and buy some $1.6 billion worth of beer and wine this holiday. And 47 million will travel more than fifty miles from home.
And, in a quick rundown of more numbers: 26 percent of us will buy patriotic merchandise; 61 percent will attend a holiday picnic; and 47 percent of us are extremely proud to be Americans versus 70 percent in 2003.
In 2017, we spent $804 million on beef, while turkey ($50 million) barely edged out barbecue sauce ($43 million). This is America’s top beer-drinking holiday, with about $1 billion bought (2018). That’s compared to $568 million spent on wine.
About 40 percent of Americans will attend over 16,000 firework displays that will cost over $1 billion. Each municipal display costs $25,000 to $100,000, and 90 percent of the fireworks will come from China.
On another note, it’s estimated that 870 people will go to the emergency room with fireworks-related injuries, and eight will die. Also 601 people will typically be killed in car wrecks. Of those, 237 will involve a driver with a blood alcohol level of 0.08 or more. Wearing seat belts could save 103 of them.
And the cost of defense of the average DUI ticket is about $10,000.
So have fun celebrating the 243rd birthday of America. Stay out of political fights with relatives. But, above all, be safe.