Today is the Fourth of July, known in the U.S. as Independence Day, a national holiday in which we celebrate our country’s liberation.
This week’s list is for the patriots, the flag-wavers, the pyromaniacs and for anyone who wants to expand their knowledge of this American holiday with five little-known facts.
1. July 4 is not technically our day of independence: On the most semantic level, the 13 original colonies were legally liberated from England’s rule on July 2, 1776 in a closed session of Congress.
It took the Second Continental Congress two more days to revise the most famous of American documents; July 4 was the day the Declaration of Independence was given final approval.
2. The first Independence Day was celebrated on July 8, 1776: Although the Declaration of Independence was approved on July 4, 1776, it was not made public until July 8. The bells of Philadelphia -- the Liberty Bell included -- rang to summon citizens to Independence Hall for the very first public reading of the document.
The Declaration of Independence was read that day by Col. John Nixon, who, less than a year later, would be made a brigadier general of the Continental Army.
Contrary to popular belief, the Liberty Bell did not ring on July 4, 1776 to mark the nation’s independence because the Declaration was not yet made public -- and wouldn’t be for another four days.
3. Betsy Ross may not have made the first American flag: While Ross is widely credited with the creation of the stars and stripes, so much to the point that it is taught in schools, there is no credible historical evidence that she made the original flag.
It’s true that Ross was a flag maker, and that she made flags for the Pennsylvania State Navy in 1777. But it wasn’t until the 1790s that the stars and stripes became publicly known, and it was another 80 years -- in 1870 -- when Ross’s grandson came out with the proclamation that his grandmother made that original flag.
4. Thomas Jefferson and John Adams both died on the Fourth of July: Not only did our second president and third president both die on Independence Day, they both died on the same day: July 4, 1826.
Jefferson was the author of the Declaration of Independence, and served as president from 1801 to 1809. Adams, who helped Jefferson draft the Declaration, served from 1797 to 1801, and was subsequently defeated in an attempt at re-election by Jefferson.
Twenty-five years later, both men would die on the same day, Jefferson only a few hours before Adams.
5. The signers of the Declaration of Independence did not sign on July 4, 1776: The idea of the 56 signers being in the same room at the same time on our day of independence is, unfortunately, a myth.
The official signing event took place on Aug. 2, 1776, when 50 men signed the document. It took several months before all 56 finally signed; the last, Thomas McKean, signed in January 1777, some seven months after the document was approved by Congress.
Even after signing, the names of the signers were withheld from the public for more than six months to protect their identities. The Revolutionary War was still going on, and if the signers were discovered, the treasonable act could have resulted in their deaths.