Ten Things You Didn't Know About the Fourth of July

UPDATED: Thursday, July 5, 2012 13:05
PAGE 1 of 1

Thursday, July 5, 2012 6:19 AM


Gettin' old, but still a hippie at heart...

Just for fun:

Hot Dogs

Americans eat a lot of hot dogs—20 billion per year, to be exact. That’s an average of 70 hot dogs per person. But Americans consume more hot dogs on July 4th than on any other day of the year: according to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council, 155 million hot dogs will be consumed on July 4th alone. That’s enough to stretch from L.A. to D.C. five times, with hot dogs left over. In the past, Iowa has consumed the most hot dogs on July 4th. One fourth of all of Iowa’s citizens ate hot dogs on Independence Day 2008.

It's a Bad Day for Presidents

Some historical events are so symbolic that they can only be ascribed to fate. The date we celebrate American independence is the same date that has seen the death of some of our nation’s most esteemed Commanders-in-Chief.

Thomas Jefferson and John Adams were ideological opposites and election rivals, but the two Founding Fathers reconciled late in life — which made their nearly simultaneous deaths on July 4, 1826 all the more meaningful. On the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson uttered his last words, “Is it the fourth yet?” before passing away. Later that same day, Adams also died, but not before saying, “Thomas Jefferson survives,” unaware his dear friend had already passed on. Adams and Jefferson were the only two signers of the Declaration to later become President. Five years later, on July 4, 1831, James Monroe, the last presidential Founding Father, died as well.

It’s not all bad news for our Commanders in Chief, however: Calvin Coolidge, the nation’s 30th president, was born on July 4, 1872.

John Adams Didn't Want to Celebrate the Fourth of July

Many historians know our second president for his fickle nature: his defense of British soldiers after the Boston Massacre, his notorious correspondence with his wife Abigail, and then there was that whole complicated bromace with Thomas Jefferson – the original frenemies. So here’s one to add to the list: he went to his grave refusing to take part in Independence Day celebrations on the 4th of July. According to Adams, the colonies truly broke from tyranny on July 2nd – the day that the members of the Continental Congress first voted to approve the Declaration of Independence.

Much Ado About ‘Nothing of Importance’

As the story goes, on the day that his soon-t0-be-ex subjects were ratifying their Declaration of Independence, England’s King George III wrote in his diary, “Nothing of importance happened today.” But if it sounds like a historical irony too good to be true, that’s because it is.

It’s not far-fetched to think it could have happened–18th century news would have taken weeks to travel across the Atlantic. However, NPR discovered five years ago that George never even kept a diary and the myth stemmed from an actual diary entry of King Louis XVI of France from 1789. So much for a retroactive “I told you so.”

Rockets’ Red Glare

Let’s be honest: human beings love to blow things up. For more than a millennium, flashes and bangs have found their place in our holiday celebrations. And what better day than the Fourth of July to make the sky shine with some chemically-induced colors? Our wallets confirm this fact: American consumers will spend more than $600 million on fireworks this Fourth, according to H&R Block. All those backyard sparklers and bottle rockets really add up, but as any doctor will tell you: safety first. Health officials expect more than 1,400 hand injuries caused by fireworks this Independence Day. Sparklers, which can reach up to 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit, are the number one cause of fireworks injuries. But if you live in five East Coast states, you won’t have such temptation: sales of consumer fireworks are banned in Delaware, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island.

The Deadliest Day on the Road

Be careful on the road this week. July 4 is the deadliest day of the year for traffic fatalities, ABC News reports, even deadlier than New Year’s Day. Many people travel on the Fourth, often driving long distances—and without the wariness or extra foresight they might take on famously boozy New Year’s. Between 2004 and 2008, an average of 148 people died on July 4, more than any other day of the year, according to a study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Traffic accidents spike around holidays in general, largely due to alcohol consumption. Nearly 41 percent of July 4 traffic fatalities are alcohol-related, compared to 31 percent on an average day. At least there’s one good thing about having the Fourth fall on a Wednesday: we may be safer this year than in previous years. Long weekends are typically more dangerous because partiers tend to drink more and drive farther. In 2008, 491 people died in car accidents in the U.S. during the three-day Fourth of July weekend, Fox Business reports.

The Declaration of Independence’s Secret Signers

The men who signed the Declaration of Independence, adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, were taking their lives in their hands when they did so — and that’s why their identities remained hidden for more than six months. A colony’s declaring independence from its mother country is usually frowned upon, and the Declaration would’ve meant high treason counts for every man that signed had the fight gone the other way. In January 1777, after the country had been at war for months, Congress ordered that every state get an original printed copy of the document. Only then were Founders’ John Hancocks – erm, signatures — revealed.

The Fourth Became a National Holiday in 1870

Americans began observing the Fourth of July as early as 1777, when the first-ever major celebration in Philadelphia included a parade, a thirteen-shot cannon salute, and fireworks. One of the first city-wide annual festivals began in Eastport, Maine, which still boasts the largest Fourth of July celebration in the state. Massachusetts became the first state to recognize the Fourth as an official holiday in 1781. Congress made Independence Day a national holiday as part a bill in 1870 to recognize at a federal level the holidays that were already recognized in every state of the Union. The bill secured federal recognition for Independence Day, Christmas and New Year’s Day and made them holidays in the District of Columbia as well. The Fourth did not become a paid legal holiday until 1938, as part of a that bill that granted holiday leave to employees of the federal government.

What’s in a Name

Thirty-one places in the United States feature the word “liberty” in their names, in honor of the Declaration of Independence and the principle it enshrined. The most populous as of July 1, 2008 is Liberty, Mo., but Iowa has more “liberty” towns than any other state: Libertyville, New Liberty, North Liberty and West Liberty. Eleven cities, towns, and villages claim “Independence” for their name, with Independence, Mo. being the most populous — as well as being the childhood home of the country’s 33rd president, Harry S. Truman.

Where’s the Party?

Independence Day is the sixth most popular party holiday during the calendar, and the only one that falls during the summer months. According to the party planners at the website Evite, July 4th falls behind cold-weather fiestas like Halloween and the Super Bowl, though the holiday does beat out Labor Day with more than four times as many parties. Which city throws the most July 4th events? That would be San Diego, whose residents, Evite says, sent out more invites than those of any other cities. Chicago follows closely behind.

But parties are for the lazy folks who can’t be bothered to leave their homes on the precious day off. What about escaping to the beach? There’s no better time than a national holiday to swap the office chair for a beach towel. The social networking site Foursquare compiled check-in information from its users on July 4th, 2011 and found that the most popular beaches folks headed to were Chicago’s North Ave Beach, followed by Coney Island Beach in Brooklyn, N.Y. – well-known as the site of the annual Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest. If you’re looking to set off fireworks, though, don’t count on New York, where they’re illegal. Foursquare notes that the most fireworks-crazy city throughout the summer is Cadillac, Mich., situated on a lake in northeast Michigan.


Thursday, July 5, 2012 1:05 PM


Beir bua agus beannacht

That's interesting Niki.

I hope all of our US posters had a fun time celebrating yesterday. I went to my uncle's barbecue and then to the neighbor's house for fireworks with the kiddos of the neighborhood.

I have Kathy Bates on speed dial, mwa ha ha ha (in exaggeratedly evil voice)

"A completely coherant River means writers don't deliver" KatTaya.






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