17 Fun 4th of July Facts for Kids to Explain the History of the Holiday
Every year on July 4, kids and adults alike gear up to celebrate Independence Day with barbecues, pool parties, parades, and fireworks displays. But with all of the patriotic festivities, it's hard to forget the true meaning of the federal holiday: the birth of American independence. Give your children a history lesson by sharing these fun 4th of July facts. Who knows—they might be inspired to share them at your family's celebration!
1. America began as 13 British colonies.
In the 17th and 18th centuries, Great Britain owned several territories along North America's Atlantic coast. They were known as the Thirteen Colonies and included Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Virginia.
2. The Revolutionary War started America's quest for independence.
The Thirteen Colonies weren't entirely happy with Britain's rule over them. They initiated the American Revolutionary War in 1775 to express their grievances about certain matters, such as their lack of representation in government. It soon turned into a quest for independence from Britain.
3. America actually declared independence on July 2, 1776.
Delegates from the Thirteen Colonies held a meeting called the Second Continental Congress. On July 2, 1776, they agreed to approve a resolution of independence, which proclaimed freedom from British rule. The statement of autonomy, called the Declaration of Independence, was officially approved on July 4.
4. John Adams predicted modern-day 4th of July festivities.
In a letter to his wife Abigail, John Adams wrote about his vision for Independence Day. Here's what Adams said: "I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival." He added that it would be observed with "pomp and parade, with shews, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other from this time forward forever more."
5. America had about 2.5 million residents in 1776.
America's population has grown exponentially since the Declaration of Independence was signed. Today, more than 328.2 million people reside in the United States.
6. Historical records indicate that 4th of July fireworks took place in Philadelphia in 1777.
An article published in The Virginia Gazette on July 18, 1777, talked about July 4th celebrations in Philadelphia. It mentioned parades, music, speeches, fireworks, and boats adorned with red, white, and blue decorations.
7. Even George Washington got in the patriotic spirit!
Historical sources say that George Washington gave his soldiers double rations of rum on July 4, 1778. Nowadays most adults celebrate Independence Day with beer and patriotic cocktails instead.
8. The first 4th of July parade was in Bristol, Rhode Island.
Bristol hosted a small 4th of July parade in 1785. Since then, it has expanded into an annual celebration that starts on Flag Day (June 14) and ends with a parade winding 2.5 miles through the town on July 4.
9. The White House's first 4th of July party was in 1801.
Thomas Jefferson hosted the party, which is now an annual celebration with a concert and fireworks display at the National Mall.
10. Thomas Jefferson and John Adams both died on the 4th of July.
Two signers of the Declaration of Independence became president: John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. Both men died on July 4, 1826—a significant date because it marked the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. America's fifth president, James Monroe, also died on July 4, 1831, although he didn't sign the Declaration. Calvin Coolidge is the only president to have a July 4 birthday.
11. Independence Day became a federal holiday in 1870.
The 4th of July became an unpaid federal holiday in 1870—nearly 100 years after it was founded. Congress made it a paid holiday for federal employees in 1941, and it remains so to this day.
12. The largest fireworks display takes place in New York City.
On Independence Day, there are thousands of public fireworks displays across the country, but the largest one is sponsored by Macy's in New York City. Plenty of other cities host large-scale fireworks shows, too, such as Boston, Houston, Nashville, and Washington, D.C.
13. Americans spend more than $1 billion on fireworks annually.
The price accounts for personal consumer fireworks and public display fireworks, according to data compiled by the American Pyrotechnics Association. That's an explosive 4th of July fact for kids!
14. Seward, Nebraska, was dubbed "America's Official Fourth of July City-Small Town USA" by Congress.
Congress made the resolution because Seward has hosted 4th of July celebrations in its town square since 1868. More than 40,000 people attend the festivities—which is remarkable because only 6,000 people reside in Seward!
15. Americans eat 150 million hot dogs on the 4th of July.
According to the National Sausage and Hot Dog Council (NHDSC), that's enough hot dogs to stretch from Washington, D.C. to Los Angeles more than five times!
16. The Star Spangled Banner became our national anthem in 1931.
Francis Scott Key wrote the ballad during the War of 1812 on September 14, 1814. Now it's probably the most famous song about our country.
17. It's actually a violation to sport the American flag.
The U.S. flag code was established in 1942, and it states that the flag "should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery." That said, you can't get any penalties for breaking the code, so don't worry about that American flag shirt or bathing suit in your closet!