Independence Day: From then to now

By Jennifer Woods - [email protected]

This week, citizens of Fayette County will gather to celebrate the Fourth of July, joining in the types of celebrations that have taken place for over a century throughout the country.

What many people may not realize is by celebrating on July 4, citizens are celebrating the day the Declaration of Independence was adopted and not the day it was signed.

When the Continental Congress met at the Pennsylvania State House (which would later become Independence Hall) on June 7 of 1776, Virginia Delegate Richard Henry Lee made the motion calling for the independence of the colonies.

The vote on the motion was postponed and a five-person committee was formed. Thomas Jefferson was one of the members of this committee and was the main author of the rough draft of the Declaration of Independence, which was created that same June.

The continental congress voted in favor of Lee’s motion for Independence on July 2 of 1776. The declaration was edited and revised until it was adopted on July 4.

The majority of the signatures on the declaration were signed on Aug. 2 of 1776. John Hancock is noted as the first signer and the person who wrote his name larger in comparison to the other signatures. Great Britain wouldn’t have received the document until later in the year.

Prior to the Revolution, celebrations were held on the King’s birthday. Once the declaration was adopted, July 4 became the day to celebrate. John Adams let it be known that he believed Independence should have been celebrated on July 2 as it was the day the vote took place.

The initial public readings were accompanied by such things as bon-fires, cannon fire, concerts, etc. Early celebrations included mock funerals for King George the third.

Although the day was not widely celebrated at first, it gained popularity over the years. Philadelphia held the first annual commemoration in 1777.

In 1781, Massachusetts was the first state to make the Fourth of July an official state holiday. Congress signed a bill in 1870 that recognized several holidays as national holidays, including the Fourth of July.

According to, the estimated population of the nation in July of 1776 was 2.5 million people. The estimated population of the nation on July 1 of 2017 was 326 million people.

The National Retail Federation’s website shows approximately $6.7 billion will be spent on food items for barbecues, picnics and cookouts for this holiday. According to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council, approximately 7 billion hot dogs are expected to be consumed by Americans between Memorial Day and Labor Day with 150 million of those hot dogs being consumed for Independence Day.

While food is considered the most popular way to celebrate Independence Day, the next popular way to celebrate is with fireworks. An online media release from the American Pyrotechnics Association explains that consumer firework revenues have increased from $407 million in 2000 to $945 million in 2018. Firework revenue may surpass $1 billion this year.

How will you celebrate Independence Day? Submit your answers and photos to the Record-Herald by contacting Jennifer Woods at 740-313-0355 or [email protected] file photo

By Jennifer Woods

[email protected]