1. The colonies officially declared independence on July 2
On July 2, 1776, the Second Continental Congress approved delegate Richard Henry Lee’s motion for independence, rejecting the political bands connecting the 13 American colonies to the crown. July 4 is celebrated as Independence Day because the congress approved the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, after two days of debating and revising its contents. The declaration was just a formal statement and explanation of the split, and it seems the authors intended July 2 to be celebrated as Independence Day. In a July 3 letter to his wife Abigail, John Adams predicted July 2 would be the commemorated date.
2. Few, if any, members of the Congress signed the Declaration of Independence on the Fourth of July
Historians disagree on the precise order of the signing, but it seems most signatories didn’t put their names on the document until August 2. Although several, including Benjamin Franklin and John Adams, later wrote that they signed the Declaration on July 4, many of the signatories weren’t present in Philadelphia until later. Furthermore, the document’s language underwent extensive revision until it was approved on July 4, and it would have taken time for an official copy to be handwritten on parchment, making it unlikely that the final copy was signed on July 4.
3. Thomas Jefferson’s draft of the Declaration of Independence condemned slavery
Although Thomas Jefferson owned slaves, his original draft of the Declaration contained language condemning King George III’s support for the slave trade as “a cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life and liberty.” Despite such stirring, humanistic language, it seems that Jefferson’s main complaint against the English king was related to Dunmore’s Proclamation, a 1775 law passed by Lord Dunmore, the British governor of Virginia. The proclamation promised Virginia slaves freedom in exchange for serving in the British army.
4. Be (extra) careful when driving on the Fourth
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, over the past five years an average of 118.4 people died each Independence Day, making it the most fatal motoring day of the year. For motorcyclists, the Fourth of July is particularly dangerous, with an average of 25.8 deaths, more than double the daily national average.
5. Your fireworks and American flag were probably made in China
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the United States imported $311.7 million’s worth of fireworks from China in 2015, almost 96 percent of total U.S. fireworks imports and an increase from the $247.1 million imported in 2014. Chinese goods also accounted for almost 98 percent of all U.S. imports of American flags in 2015. Americans spent $4.4 million on imported U.S. flags that year, $4.3 million of which came from China.
6. The melody of the “Star-Spangled Banner” came from the official song of an English club
The tune that Francis Scott Key set the lyrics of the national anthem to came from “To Anacreon in Heaven,” the anthem of the Anacreontic Society, a gentlemen’s club of amateur musicians in London. The club was named for the Greek poet Anacreon, who was famous for his verse about women and drinking, and the song was likely a tavern standard in colonial America.