Like clockwork right around the midpoint of the calendar year, Americans celebrate the Fourth of July with parties, burgers and hot dogs, fireworks, bottle rockets, and various other traditions.
While the fourth day in July has always been associated with the United States becoming an independent nation, the day has some other historical and lesser-known significance. The following facts might surprise you about this day.
1. The first-ever fireworks display to recognize the Fourth of July holiday was held on July 4, 1777 just one year after the U.S. gained its independence from Great Britain.
2. There were originally only two individuals who signed the Declaration of Independence – John Hancock and Charles Thomson – on July 4. The majority of the others who put their signature on this historic document did not do so until almost a month later on August 2.
3. Out of the 45 U.S. presidents, only Calvin Coolidge was born on July 4 (in 1872). Ironically, three presidents have died on this holiday – John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Monroe.
4. More than a decade before he was elected as the first U.S. president, George Washington requested a double ration of rum for his soldiers to enjoy celebrating this holiday on July 4, 1778.
5. Almost a full century after the United States was established as an independent nation, the Fourth of July was finally declared a federal holiday in 1870.
6. July 4 is also an important day in the history of The Philippines. This country gained its own independence from the U.S. on this date in 1946 when the Treaty of Manila was signed.
7. Each year on the Fourth of July, Americans consume an estimated 155 million hot dogs – nearly half the population of the U.S. Plus, close to $100 million is spent to buy chips annually for Independence Day festivities.
8. Speaking of hot dogs, the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest has been a July 4th staple since it was originally contested on July 4, 1916 on Coney Island in New York when, according to legend, four immigrants competed to see who could eat the most hot dogs to proclaim that the winner was the most patriotic among the group.
9. On July 4, 1939, legendary baseball star Lou Gehrig delivered his famous “luckiest man” speech when he revealed his ALS diagnosis at just 36 years old. The debilitating disease would claim his life less than two years later, and the name of the disease has since been associated with Gehrig.