What is the Fourth of July?

Independence Day postcard from the early 1900s

The recent celebration of the 75th anniversary of D-Day was very impressive. One of the media reports about D-Day that was surprising was about the number of people that either did not know what it was about or did not understand some of the background, such as who was fighting who. This made me wonder if facts were lost after 75 years, what did people know about the 200+ years-ago events surrounding the Fourth of July?

The Fourth of July—or Independence Day—was the day in 1776 when the Second Continental Congress signed the Declaration of Independence, the document that marked the legal separation of the Thirteen Colonies from Great Britain. The document was approved two days earlier, on the July 2, but signing was delayed a few days. Some believe it was signed about a month later, but Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and Benjamin Franklin all said that they signed it on July 4.

On July 3, 1776, John Adams wrote that July 2, 1776, would be celebrated as the “great anniversary festival” and that it “ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations.” Adams was off by a few days as the document that was approved on July 2 was printed and distributed with the date it was signed—July 4.

The Independence Day celebrations of the past were much more eventful in St. George than now. In the July 9, 1903 issue of the Harbor Beacon (a Tenants Harbor newspaper) it was reported that “a large number attended the party in Odd Fellows hall, Friday evening. Saturday a greater number attended the celebration on Barter’s Point and to the ball game and boat ra ce, at the same time listening to the good music furnished by Mathew’s band.”—John M. Falla

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