U.S.A.! U.S.A.! Independence Day is here, everyone. Wherever you lean politically, no matter where you’re from, we can all take a day to appreciate how great it is to live in the United States, and to celebrate the “traitors” who made it all possible. In between your second helping of potato salad and setting off explosives, throw these five bits of trivia at your friends and family:
1) America didn’t declare independence on July 4
Officially, the Continental Congress declared its freedom from Great Britain on July 2, 1776, when it voted to approve a resolution that declared:
“That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.”
John Adams thought July 2 would be the date celebrated for centuries to come. But the actual “Declaration of Independence” that was read to the public was published on July 4. About 200 copies were printed, and 26 copies remain today. Only John Hancock and Charles Thompson actually signed the document on the 4th. The rest signed later that month.
2) July 4th is important to the military for another reason too
The Military Academy at West Point officially opened on July 4, 1802. Standards weren’t quite what they are today. Students ranged in age from 10 to 37 years old.
3) July 4th is an important day in abolition
When New York abolished slavery on July 4, 1827, it was a big deal – a really big deal. It was the first state to totally abolish legal slavery, and it set the precedent for other states to follow. About 4,600 slaves were freed in New York, and the Black community held parades throughout the state. Note: July 4th was not deemed a federal holiday until 1870.
4) There’s a lot of meat involved
Americans eat, on average, 150 million hot dogs on the Fourth of July, according to the National Hot Dog & Sausage Council (NHDSC). Nathans holds its famous hot dog eating contest in Coney Island every year on July 4, but it’s a myth that the contest is a longtime American tradition (there is no evidence of the contest being held before 1972). Mortimer Matz, a longtime public relations professional, Matz told the Times in 2010: “We said this was an annual tradition since 1916. In Coney Island pitchman style, we made it up.”
5) There is a secret nod to the Fourth of July in New York City
One World Trade Center in New York is 1,776 feet tall (when you include the observation deck and antenna), in honor of the year the U.S. declared its independence from Britain.
Feature image: U.S. Air Force Photo by Chief Master Sgt Bob Kamholz/released