14 Things Every American Should Know About the Fourth of July
Can you name the United States president who was born on the Fourth of July?
Fireworks, food, and family: A festive Fourth of July celebration is a sure sign that summer has arrived, but the holiday isn’t just about hot dogs and sparklers. There’s much more to our country’s long and complicated history that can’t be summed up by a fireworks show (although celebrating Independence Day with fireworks was originally John Adams’ idea). This season, brush up on the history of the Fourth of July, then celebrate the day by playing this patriotic trivia game with your friends and family.
Our free trivia game is easy to download and print, so you can easily play with your family on Independence Day. Or, send it to friends and see who knows the most about this iconic American holiday.
On July 4, 1776, Congress officially adopted the Declaration of Independence, but it actually wasn’t signed until almost a month later. When the declaration was officially approved on July 4, John Hancock and Charles Thompson (president and secretary of the Continental Congress) signed the draft that day. But the official copy wasn’t signed by all 56 signers until August 2, 1776.
When John Adams wrote that letter predicting an annual Fourth of July celebration, he specifically called out one iconic tradition: Fireworks. He wrote that the holiday would be celebrated “with illuminations from one end of this continent to the other from this time forward, forevermore.” And judging by the amount of fireworks purchased each year (more on that below), I’d say he was correct.
According to the American Pyrotechnics Association, Americans spend $1 billion on fireworks each July. That’s a lot of bottle rockets and sparklers! The APA estimates that price adds up to about 268 million pounds of fireworks sold each year.
While many of us enjoy a red, white, and blue cocktail on the Fourth of July, George Washington may have been the first to start the tradition. On the second anniversary of the first Fourth of July, America was still fighting for independence in the Revolutionary War. George Washington ordered a double ration of rum for his soldiers (along with an artillery salute) to celebrate the holiday on July 4, 1778.
The United States flag didn’t always have 50 stars. In fact, the original flag only had 13—which represented the 13 original colonies. The blue square with the stars is referred to as ‘the union’ on the flag, and should always be displayed at the peak of the flag staff or on the uppermost right side, if hung on a wall.
Calvin Coolidge was the first (and so far, the only) president to have been born on the Fourth of July. He was born on July 4, 1872, in Plymouth, Vermont, and went on to become president in 1923.
John Hancock famously was the first person to sign the Declaration of Independence (that’s where the phrase 'put your John Hancock here' originates), so many people falsely assume he became president at some point. Although he was president of the Continental Congress, John Hancock never became president of the United States.
When the colonists first came to America, they were looking for ways to distance themselves from Britain. They ditched their traditional scones and cakes and learned how to make a flaky pastry crust from Dutch immigrants who had also come to America. Since apples were easy to come by, they filled the pastries with apple slices and the tradition of apple pie (and independence) was born.
Although the holiday has been celebrated each year since 1776, it wasn’t declared an official holiday until 1870. Although the holiday was celebrated annually, it wasn't until after the War of 1812 (when the U.S. faced Great Britain again and patriotic sentiments were at an all-time high), that the Fourth of July became an even larger celebration than before. Because of this, Congress declared it an official holiday in 1870, and in 1941, made the day a paid holiday for all federal employees.
Each Fourth of July, a televised concert and fireworks show is presented from the National Mall in Washington D.C., but it wasn’t always celebrated this way. President Thomas Jefferson held the White House’s first Fourth of July celebration in 1801, starting the annual tradition.
Although the holiday wasn’t made an official nation-wide holiday until 1870, the state of Massachusetts has recognized the holiday since 1781. Several months before America won the Revolutionary War, Massachusetts declared the Fourth of July an official state holiday.