Happy 4th of July from General Pipe Cleaners

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Happy 4th of July from General Pipe Cleaners

Wherever this upcoming 4th of July weekend takes you — to the beach, backyard or somewhere in between — we hope it's filled with family, friends, fun and some fireworks.

On Independence Day, as you make your way around a table full of hot dogs, hamburgers, fried chicken and barbecue, impress your friends and family with your knowledge of our nation’s most patriotic day.

John Adams got the date wrong

The Second Continental Congress voted for a Declaration of Independence on July 2, but the unsigned document wasn’t ready for publication until July 4. John Adams wrote to his wife Abigail, “I am apt to believe that (July 2, 1776), will be celebrated, by succeeding generations, as the great anniversary festival.” Oops. 

The actual signing of the Declaration of Independence didn’t begin until August 2 and finished sometime in late November.

The first of the Fourths

The first major celebration of the 4th of July took place in Philadelphia in 1777. It almost didn’t happen. Just days before, Congress decided to plan a celebration, including a fancy dinner at City Tavern. On the 3rd, a proclamation in The Pennsylvania Evening Post read: “Tomorrow, being the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, will, it is hoped, be observed by all true Whigs as a day of rejoicing. Every mark of joy and festivity will be shown by those who have a proper sense of its importance.”  

Since part of the army was marching through Philadelphia to join General Washington, they became part of the festivities along with nearby Navy ships that came into the harbor, festooned with red, white and blue bunting, to fire their cannons 13 times in honor of the 13 original states. The soldiers fired back with their muskets and cannons. The day and evening were full of parades, bands, bonfires, ringing of bells and fireworks.

Drinks for everyone

On July 4, 1778, in Princeton, New Jersey, good ol’ General George Washington showed the kind of character that made him the best president ever. He had double rations of rum distributed to all his soldiers to mark the second anniversary of the independence.

The Bay State shows the way

Independence wasn’t a sure thing until October 1781 with the American victory at Yorktown. But, several months before, Massachusetts became the first state to make July 4 an official state holiday. In Boston, it replaced March 5, the date of the Boston Massacre, as the major patriotic holiday.

Celebrating at the White House, 1800s style

Thomas Jefferson hosted the first official White House Fourth of July party in 1801. The doors were opened to the public who celebrated alongside government officials, diplomats, military officers and Cherokee chiefs. Punch, wine, cakes and other sweets were served while the Marine band played “patriotic airs.”

Meanwhile a festival took place on the grounds of the President’s House — that’s what the White House was called back then. People watched horse races, cockfights and parades, and visited tents selling food, drink and “cottage goods of all types.”

Westward, ho!

In 1805, Lewis and Clark were the first to celebrate the Fourth of July west of the Mississippi. They were passing through the northeastern corner of the present-day state of Kansas and stopped at a creek — which they named Independence Creek in honor of the day. They fired the expedition cannon and issued an extra ration of whiskey for the men.

A fateful day for Founding Fathers

Although both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson worked together to liberate our country, they became bitter political enemies not long later. After they retired from politics, Adams wrote to Jefferson, “You and I ought not to die before we have explained ourselves to each other.”

And so they did in a correspondence that lasted until their deaths more than 14 years later. They became more than pen pals — both men cherished their late-blooming friendship and considered each other the best of friends.

They both died on the 50th anniversary of independence, on July 4, 1826, Jefferson at Monticello in Virginia and Adams at his home, Peacefield, in Quincy, Massachusetts. The story goes that before Adams slipped away, he allegedly said, “Jefferson survives.” In fact, Jefferson had died a few hours before.

More presidential trivia

James Monroe, the fifth U.S. president, died five years later on July 4, 1831. But it’s not all doom and gloom. On July 4, 1872, the country’s 30th president, Calvin Coolidge, was born.

Making it official

Independence Day wasn’t an official holiday until 1870 when Congress passed a bill recognizing four major state holidays — the others were Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day — as federal holidays. It wasn’t until 1941, that Congress made it a paid holiday for federal workers.

Show your patriotism and eat a hot dog, or two, or three…

According to legend, on July 4, 1916, four immigrants held a hot dog eating contest at the Nathan's Famous stand on Coney Island to settle an argument about who was the most patriotic. But, according to one of the Nathan’s contest’s promoters, that story was made up for a publicity stunt.

Nathan's Famous 4th of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest really started in 1972, but Nathan’s website still alludes to the 1916 story. Why not, it’s a good story. And now you have 10 good stories to share.

Happy Birthday, America!


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