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This Day In History:
The U.S. Flag
Events occuring on July 4July 4, 1776-- the Second Continental Congress unanimously adopted the Declaration of Independence, announcing the separation of the American colonies from Great Britain.
July 4, 1778 in the American Revolutionary War, American forces under George Clark capture Kaskaskia during the Illinois campaign.
July 4, 1802 The United States Military Academyat West Point, New York opens.
July 4, 1803 The Louisiana Purchase is announced to the American people.
1817 Construction on the Erie Canal begins at Rome, New York.
1826 Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States, dies the same day as John Adams, the second president of the United States, on the fiftieth anniversary of the adoption of the United States Declaration of Independence.
1827 Slavery is legally abolished in New York State.
1831 Samuel Francis Smith's song, My Country, 'Tis of Thee was first performed in public at a children's Independence Day celebration at Park Street Church in Boston.
1855 In Brooklyn, the first edition of Walt Whitman's book of poems, titled Leaves of Grass, is published.
1863 In the American Civil War, the Siege of Vicksburg ends as Vicksburg surrenders to Ulysses S. Grant's Union army after a 47 day long siege.
1863- A Confederate Army is repulsed at the Battle of Helena, Arkansas in the American Civil War.
1886 The people of France offer the Statue of Liberty to the people of the United States.
1910 African-American boxer Jack Johnson knocks out white boxer Jim Jeffries in a heavyweight boxing match sparking race riots across the United States.
1939 Lou Gehrig, recently diagnosed with Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (later to be known as Lou Gehrig's Disease), tells a crowd at Yankee Stadium that he considers himself "The luckiest man on the face of the earth" as he announces his retirement from major league baseball.
1946--The Philippine, which had been a U.S. colony since the Spanish-American War of 1898, is given full independence from the United States.
1960- The 50-star flag of the United States debuts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The addition of two new stars was necessary due to the admission to the Union of Alaska and Hawaii in 1959.
1966 President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Freedom of Information Act into United States law.
1997 NASA's Pathfinder space probe lands on the surface of Mars.
2004 The cornerstone of the Freedom Tower is laid on the site of the World Trade Center in New York City.
July 4 Births:
1804 Nathaniel Hawthorne, American writer (d. 1864)
1807 Giuseppe Garibaldi, Italian military and political figure (d. 1882)
1816 Hiram Walker, American grocer and distiller (d. 1899)
1826 Stephen Foster, American songwriter (d. 1864)
1847 James Anthony Bailey, American circus impresario (d. 1906)
1854 Bill Tilghman, American gunslinger and peace officer (d. 1924)
1867 Stephen Mather, American entrepreneur and conservationist (d. 1930)
1868 Henrietta Swan Leavitt, American astronomer (d. 1921)
1872 Calvin Coolidge, 30th President of the United States (d. 1933)
1881 Ulysses S. Grant III, American soldier (d. 1968)
1882 Louis B. Mayer, American film producer (d. 1957)
1883 Rube Goldberg, American cartoonist (d. 1970)
1895 Irving Caesar, American lyricist and composer (d. 1996)
1898 Dr. Pilar Barbosa, Puerto Rican historian (d. 1997)
1898 Gertrude Lawrence, English-born actress (d. 1952)
1902 Meyer Lansky, Russian-born American gangster (d. 1983)
1902 George Murphy, American entertainer (d. 1992)
1904 Angela Baddeley, English actress (d. 1976)
1905 Irving Johnson, American adventurer (d. 1991)
1907 Gordon Griffith, American director (d. 1958)
1907 Howard Taubman, American music and theater critic (d. 1996)
1910 Gloria Stuart, American actress (d. 2010)
1911 Mitch Miller, American entertainer (d. 2010)
1916 Iva Toguri D'Aquino, American World War II figure (d. 2006)
1918 Ann Landers, American advice columnist (d. 2002)
1918 Abigail Van Buren, American advice columnist
1918 Johnnie Parsons, American race car driver (d. 1984)
1920 Norm Drucker, American basketball referee
1920 Leona Helmsley, American hotel operator and real estate investor (d. 2007)
1924 Eva Marie Saint, American actress
1927 Gina Lollobrigida, Italian actress
1927 Neil Simon, American playwright
1928 Chuck Tanner, American baseball player (d. 2011)
1929 Peter Angelos, majority owner of the Baltimore Orioles baseball team
1929 Al Davis, American businessman
1929 Bill Tuttle, American baseball player (d. 1998)
1930 Frunzik Mkrtchyan, Armenian actor (d. 1993)
1930 George Steinbrenner, American businessman (d. 2010)
1930 Yuri Tyukalov, Soviet Olympic rower
1931 Stephen Boyd, Northern Irish actor (d. 1977)
1931 Sébastien Japrisot, French author, film director and screenwriter (d. 2003)
1932 Aurèle Vandendriessche, Belgian athlete
1934 Colin Welland, English actor
1935 Paul Scoon, Governor General of Grenada
1937 Thomas Nagel, American philosopher
1938 Bill Withers, American singer and songwriter
1942 Hal Lanier, American baseball player
1942 Floyd Little, American football player
1943 Geraldo Rivera, American reporter
1945 Bruce French, American actor
1946 Tish Howard, American model
1946 Ron Kovic, American peace activist
1946 Michael Milken, American financier
1946 Ed O'Ross, American actor
1948 Ed Armbrister, baseball player
1951 Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, American politician
1954 Jim Beattie, American baseball player
1954 Morganna Roberts, American entertainer
1962 Pam Shriver, American tennis player
1969 Todd Marinovich, American football player
1971 Brendan Donnelly, American baseball player
1972 William Goldsmith, American drummer (Sunny Day Real Estate, Foo Fighters)
July 4 Deaths:
1826 John Adams, 2nd President of the United States (b. 1735)
1826 Thomas Jefferson 3rd President of the United States (b. 1743)
1831 James Monroe, 5th President of the United States (b. 1758)
1848 François-René de Chateaubriand, French writer (b. 1768)
1850 William Kirby, English entomologist (b. 1759)
1854 Karl Friedrich Eichhorn, German jurist (b. 1781)
1857 William L. Marcy, American statesman (b. 1786)
1881 Johan Vilhelm Snellman, Finnish statesman (b. 1806)
1882 Joseph Brackett, American composer (b. 1797)
1891 Hannibal Hamlin, U.S. Vice President (b. 1809)
1901 Johannes Schmidt, German linguist (b. 1843)
1910 Giovanni Schiaparelli, Italian astronomer (b. 1835)
1916 Alan Seeger, American war poet (b. 1888)
1922 Lothar von Richthofen, German pilot (b. 1894)
1926 Pier Giorgio Frassati, Italian Saint (b. 1901)
1931 Emanuele Filiberto, 2nd Duke of Aosta, Italian aristocrat (b. 1869)
1931 Buddie Petit, American jazz musician (b. 1895)
1934 Maria Sklodowska-Curie, Nobel Prize in Chemistry and Physics (b. 1867)
1938 Otto Bauer, Austrian Social Democratic politician (b. 1881)
1938 Suzanne Lenglen, French tennis player (b. 1899)
1941 Antoni Lomnicki, Polish mathematician (b. 1881)
1946 Gerda Steinhoff, Polish-born German concentration camp overseer (b. 1922)
1948 Monteiro Lobato, Brazilian writer (b. 1882)
1963 Bernard Freyberg, New Zealander statesman (b. 1889)
1964 Henry (Hank) Sylvern, American radio personality (b. 1908)
1970 Barnett Newman, American artist (b. 1905)
1970 Harold Stirling Vanderbilt, American industrialist (b. 1884)
1971 August Derleth, American writer and editor (b. 1909)
1976 Yonatan Netanyahu, Israeli soldier and Entebbe rescue commander (b. 1946)
1984 Jimmie Spheeris, American singer-songwriter (b. 1949)
1986 Flor Peeters, Belgian composer and organist (b. 1903)
1986 Oscar Zariski, Russian mathematician (b. 1899)
1988 Adrian Adonis, American professional wrestler (b. 1954)
1989 Jack Haig, British actor (b. 1913)
1991 Victor Chang, Australian physician (b. 1936)
1992 Ástor Piazzolla, Argentinian composer (b. 1921)
1993 Bona Arsenault, French Canadian politician and historian (b. 1903)
1994 Joey Marella, American professional wrestling referee (b. 1964)
1995 Eva Gabor, Hungarian actress (b. 1919)
1995 Bob Ross, American artist and television host (b. 1942)
1997 Charles Kuralt, American television presenter (b. 1934)
1997 John Zachary Young, English zoologist (b. 1907)
1999 Leo Garel, American artist and cartoonist (b. 1917)
2000 Gustaw Herling-Grudzinski, Polish writer (b. 1919)
2001 Keenan Milton, American skateboarder (b. 1974)
2002 Benjamin O. Davis Jr., American Air Force general (b. 1912)
2002 Mansoor Hekmat, Iranian politician (b. 1951)
2002 Winnifred Quick, American Titanic survivor (b. 1904)
2003 André Claveau, French singer (b. 1915)
2003 Barry White, American singer (b. 1944)
2004 Jean-Marie Auberson, Swiss conductor (b. 1920)
2004 Frank Robinson (Xylophone Man), British street entertainer (b. 1932)
2005 Hank Stram, American football coach (b. 1923)
2007 Baris Akarsu, Turkish rock musician (b. 1979)
2007 Bill Pinkney, American singer and performer (b. 1925)
2008 Jesse Helms, American politician (b. 1921)
2008 Evelyn Keyes, American actress (b. 1916)
2008 Terrence Kiel, American football player (b. 1980)
2008 Charles Wheeler, British journalist (b. 1923)
2009 Brenda Joyce, American actress (b. 1917)
2009 Allen Klein, American music executive (b. 1931)
2009 Drake Levin, American rock musician (b. 1946)
2009 Steve McNair, American football player (b. 1973)
2009 Lasse Strömstedt, Swedish writer (b. 1935)
2009 Jean-Baptiste Tati Loutard, Congolese politician (b. 1938)
2009 Jim Chapin, American drummer (b. 1919)
2010 Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah, Iraqi-born Lebanese Shiite Muslim cleric and Hezbollah mentor (b. 1935)
2011 Otto von Habsburg, last crown prince of Austria-Hungary (b. 1912)
How Independence Day is Celebrated in America:
On July 4, 1776, the Second Continental Congress unanimously adopted the Declaration of Independence, announcing the separation of the American colonies from Great Britain. While the Constitution provides the legal and governmental framework for the United States, the Declaration, with the eloquent assertion written by Thomas Jefferson, that "all Men are created equal," is held in very high regard by the American people.
Citizens of Phlidelphia (the first U.S. capital), in 1777, marked the first anniversary of American independence with a spontaneous celebration, which is described in a letter by John Adams to Abigail Adams. However, observing Independence Day only became a commonplace event after the War of 1812. Many regarded that war as America's Second War of Independence, as it showed that the U.S. could stand up to the British, but only if Americans stood united against a common foe. Soon, important publid events such as groundbreaking ceremonies for the Erie Canal and the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad were scheduled to coincide with July 4th festivities.
In 1859, the Banneker Institute of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, which was an abolitionist organization, urged African Americans to celebrate Independence Day while also bearing witness to the inconsistencies between the ideals espoused in the Declaration of Independence and the practice of slavery in America. Banneker's orator of the day, Mr. Jacob C. White Jr., also promised his audience a brighter future:We have learned by experience and by the comparison of ourselves with people similarly situated, to hope that, at some day not very far in futurity, our grievances will be redressed, that our long lost rights will be restored to us, and that, in the full stature of men, we will stand up, and with our once cruel opponents and oppressors rejoice in the Declaration of our common country, and hail with them the approach of the glorious natal day of the Great Republic.
Mr. Jacob C. White Jr., Introductory Remarks,
The Celebration of the Eighty-Third Anniversary of the Declaration of American Independence&
Banneker Institute, July 4, 1859.
African American Perspectives: Pamphlets from the Daniel A. P. Murray Collection, 1818-1907
By the 1870s, the Fourth of July was the most important secular holiday on the calendar in the United States. Congress passed a law creating Independence Day as a federal holiday on June 28, 1870. In an American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940 interview, Miss Nettie Spencer remembered the Fourth as the "big event of the year. Everyone in the countryside got together on that day for the only time in the year." She continued,There would be floats in the morning and the one that got the [girls?] eye was the Goddess of Liberty. She was supposed to be the most wholesome and prettiest girl in the countryside — if she wasn't she had friends who thought she was. But the rest of us weren't always in agreement on that&Following the float would be the Oregon Agricultural College cadets, and some kind of a band. Sometimes there would be political effigies.
Just before lunch - and we'd always hold lunch up for an hour - some Senator or lawyer would speak. These speeches always had one pattern. First the speaker would challenge England to a fight and berate the King and say that he was a skunk. This was known as twisting the lion's tail. Then the next theme was that any one could find freedom and liberty on our shores. The speaker would invite those who were heavy laden in other lands to come to us and find peace. The speeches were pretty fiery and by that time the men who drank got into fights and called each other Englishmen. In the afternoon we had what we called the 'plug uglies' — funny floats and clowns who took off on the political subjects of the day&The Fourth was the day of the year that really counted then. Christmas wasn't much; a Church tree or something, but no one twisted the lion's tail.
"Rural Life in the 1870s,"
Walker Winslow, interviewer, December 15, 1938.
American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940
Down in the South, the celebration was much the same. Ninety-six-year-old Dr. Samuel B. Lathan recalled the Independence Day celebrations of his South Carolina childhood:The Fourth of July was observed at Caldwell Cross Roads. The military companies of infantry would assembly here from the surrounding counties making up a brigade. A drill and inspection were had, and a dress parade followed. There was an old cannon mounted on the field. The honor of firing it was assigned to Hugh Reed, who had been in the artillery of Napoleon's army at Waterloo and afterward emigrated to South Carolina. A great barbecue and picnic dinner would be served; candidates for military, state, and national offices would speak; hard liquor would flow; and each section would present its 'bully of the woods' in a contest for champion in a fist and skull fight. Butting, biting, eye gouging, kicking, and blows below the belt were barred. It was primitive prize fighting.
"Dr. Samuel B. Lathan,"
Winnboro, South Carolina,
W. W. Dixon, interviewer,
American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940
Online resources from the Library of Congress about Independence Day:
- The Library of Congress posts a wealth of online information pertaining to the Declaration of Independence and its principal author, Thomas Jefferson. Declaring Independence: Drafting the Documents, provides a Chronology of Events leading up to the revolution and a fragment of an early draft of the Declaration. Also, see The Thomas Jefferson Papers at the Library of Congress which includes a Thomas Jefferson Timeline.
- A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation: U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates, 1774-1875 contains congressional information concerning the Declaration of Independence in the Journals of the Continental Congress and the Letters of Delegates to Congress.
- Pioneering the Upper Midwest: Books from Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, ca. 1820-1910 contains wonderful Independence Day recollections. Search the full text option on Fourth of July to locate many descriptions of the holiday including "Celebrating The Fourth," a chapter of Lewis Reimann's Between the Iron and the Pine: A Biography of A Pioneer Family and A Pioneer Town.
- Turn to The Northern Great Plains, 1880-1920: Photographs from the Fred Hultstrand and F.A. Pazandak Photograph Collections for images of Independence Days past. Search the collection on Fourth of July to find photographs like Gathering at the School House for a Fourth of July Celebration.
Learn a new Independence Day song like "Huzza! 'Tis the Fourth of July!" from Music for the Nation: American Sheet Music, 1820-1860 & 1870-1885 or "Up With the Flag," available in Historic American Sheet Music, 1850-1920. Search these collections on Fourth of July.
The Stanley Heirs Park was formed by descendants of nineteenth-century settlers who farmed and worked in the West Virginia mines. Search on the term Fourth of July in Tending the Commons: Folklife and Landscape in Southern West Virginia to see images of the Stanley Heirs celebrating the Fourth. See, for example, Charles Lilly playing the bass guitar, or Larry Gibson speaking with Mary Hufford.
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