10 Things You Didn't Know About the Fourth of July

nu1983/iStock via Getty Images
nu1983/iStock via Getty Images

The Fourth of July is packed with backyard barbecues and plenty of fireworks. With 244 years of tradition behind it, you'd be forgiven if you didn't know quite everything about America’s Independence Day. From the true story behind the signing of the Declaration of Independence to some staggering hot dog statistics, here are 10 things you might not know about the Fourth of July.

1. The Declaration of Independence wasn't signed on July 4 (or in July at all).

John Trumball's 1819 painting "Declaration of Independence."John Trumbull, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

It might make for an iconic painting, but that famous image of all the Founding Fathers and Continental Congress huddled together, presenting the first draft of the Declaration of Independence for a July 4, 1776 signing isn't quite how things really went down. As famed historian David McCullough wrote, "No such scene, with all the delegates present, ever occurred at Philadelphia."

It's now generally accepted that the Declaration of Independence wasn't signed on the Fourth of July—that's just the day the document was formally dated, finalized, and adopted by the Continental Congress, which had officially voted for independence on July 2 (the day John Adams thought we should celebrate). John Hancock and Charles Thomson signed early printed copies of the Declaration to be given to military officers and various political committees, but the bulk of the other 54 men signed an official engrossed (finalized and in larger print) copy on August 2, with others following at a later date. Hancock (boldly) signed his name again on the updated version.

2. The first Fourth of July celebrations weren't much different than today's.

After years of pent-up frustration, the colonies let loose upon hearing the words of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. Military personnel and civilians in the Bowling Green section of Manhattan tore down a statue of King George III and later melted it into bullets [PDF]; Philadelphia patriots used the King's coat of arms as kindling for a bonfire; and in Savannah, Georgia, the citizens burnt the King in effigy and held a mock funeral for their royal foe.

Independence Day celebrations began to look a bit more familiar the following year, as the July 18, 1777 issue of the Virginia Gazette describes the July 4 celebration in Philadelphia:

"The evening was closed with the ringing of bells, and at night there was a grand exhibition of fireworks, which began and concluded with thirteen rockets on the commons, and the city was beautifully illuminated. Every thing was conducted with the greatest order and decorum, and the face of joy and gladness was universal."

There were even ships decked out in patriotic colors lining harbors and streamers littering city streets. Modern Independence Day celebrations have stuck pretty close to the traditions started in 1777.

3. Eating salmon on the Fourth of July is a tradition in New England.

loustejskal.com, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.0

The tradition of eating salmon on the Fourth of July essentially began in New England as a coincidence. During the middle of the summer, salmon was abundant in rivers throughout the region, so it was a common sight on tables at the time. The dish eventually got lumped into the Fourth and has stayed that way ever since, even with the decline of Atlantic salmon.

To serve salmon the traditional New England way, you'll have to pair it with some green peas. And if you're really striving for 18th-century authenticity, enjoy the whole meal with some turtle soup, like John and Abigail Adams supposedly did on the first Fourth of July. (You can still be a patriot without the soup, though.)

4. Massachusetts was the first state to recognize the Fourth of July.

Massachusetts recognized the Fourth of July as an official holiday on July 3, 1781, making it the first state to do so. Congress hadn’t even begun designating federal holidays until June 28, 1870 [PDF], with the first four being New Year's Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. This decreed that those days were holidays for federal employees.

However, there was a distinction. The Fourth was a holiday "within the District of Columbia" only. It took years of new legislation to expand the holiday to all federal employees.

5. The oldest annual Fourth of July celebration is held in Bristol, Rhode Island.

Eighty-five years before the government recognized Fourth of July as a federal holiday, one tradition began that continues to this day. Billed as "America's Oldest Fourth of July Celebration," the town of Bristol, Rhode Island, has been doing Independence Day right since 1785.

The festivities began just two years after the Revolutionary War ended, and 2020 will be its 235th anniversary. Over the years, the whole thing has expanded well beyond July 4; the town of 23,000 residents now begins to celebrate the United States on Flag Day, June 14, all the way through to the 2.5-mile July 4 parade. What began as a "patriotic exercise"—meaning church services—has morphed into a cavalcade of parades, live music, food, and other activities. In 2020, because of the coronavirus pandemic, the festivities will be scaled down and spread out throughout the summer.

6. The shortest Fourth of July parade is in Aptos, California.

The Fourth of July parade in Aptos, California, is just a hair over half a mile long. Taking up two city blocks, and measuring just .6 miles, this brief bit of patriotism features antique cars, decorated trucks, and plenty of walkers. Afterward, there's a Party in the Park, where folks can enjoy live music, food, and games.

7. There are around 15,000 Independence Day fireworks celebrations every year.

JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images

According to a 2017 American Pyrotechnics Association projection, around 15,000 fireworks displays occur for the Fourth of July holiday (even if some aren't exactly on July 4). Though pricing varies, most small towns spend anywhere from $8000–$15,000 for a fireworks display, with larger cities going into the millions, like the Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular that averages more than $2 million.

8. Americans eat an obscene amount of hot dogs on the Fourth of July.

Americans consume about 150 million hot dogs while celebrating Independence Day. According to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council, that amount of dogs can stretch from Washington D.C. to Los Angeles more than five times.

In 2018, Joey Chestnut scarfed down 74 of those franks, breaking his own world record. That year, Chestnut won the annual Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Competition for the eleventh time. He won again in 2019, noshing on 71 wieners.

9. Americans also spend billions on food to celebrate the Fourth of July.

JillWellington, Pixabay // Public Domain

In 2019, the the National Retail Federation predicted Americans would spend around $6.7 billion on tasty treats to celebrate the Fourth of July. This included food and other cookout expenses, averaging out to about $73 per person participating in a barbecue, outdoor cookout, or picnic.

Then comes the booze. According to the Beer Institute, "more beer is sold on and around the Fourth of July holiday than during any other time throughout the year." Generally, Americans will spend around $1 billion on beer for their Fourth celebrations, and more than $560 million on wine.

10. Three presidents have died, and one was born, on the Fourth of July.

You probably know that both Thomas Jefferson and John Adams died on July 4, 1826—50 years to the day after the Declaration of Independence was adopted. They're not the only presidents to have died on the Fourth, though; James Monroe—the nation's fifth president—died just a few years later on July 4, 1831.

Though the holiday might seem like it has it out for former presidents, there was one future leader born on Independence Day. The country's 30th Commander-in-Chief, Calvin Coolidge, was born on July 4, 1872.

10 Rad Gifts for Hikers

Greg Rosenke/Unsplash
Greg Rosenke/Unsplash

The popularity of bird-watching, camping, and hiking has skyrocketed this year. Whether your gift recipients are weekend warriors or seasoned dirtbags, they'll appreciate these tools and gear for getting most out of their hiking experience.

1. Stanley Nesting Two-Cup Cookset; $14

Amazon

Stanley’s compact and lightweight cookset includes a 20-ounce stainless steel pot with a locking handle, a vented lid, and two insulated 10-ounce tumblers. It’s the perfect size for brewing hot coffee, rehydrating soup, or boiling water while out on the trail with a buddy. And as some hardcore backpackers note in their Amazon reviews, your favorite hiker can take the tumblers out and stuff the pot with a camp stove, matches, and other necessities to make good use of space in their pack.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Osprey Sirrus and Stratos 24-Liter Hiking Packs; $140

Amazon

Osprey’s packs are designed with trail-tested details to maximize comfort and ease of use. The Sirrus pack (pictured) is sized for women, while the Stratos fits men’s proportions. Both include an internal sleeve for a hydration reservoir, exterior mesh and hipbelt pockets, an attachment for carrying trekking poles, and a built-in rain cover.

Buy them: Amazon, Amazon

3. Yeti Rambler 18-Ounce Bottle; $48

Amazon

Nothing beats ice-cold water after a summer hike or a sip of hot tea during a winter walk. The Yeti Rambler can serve up both: Beverages can stay hot or cold for hours thanks to its insulated construction, and its steel body (in a variety of colors) is basically indestructible. It will add weight to your hiker's pack, though—for a lighter-weight, non-insulated option, the tried-and-true Camelbak Chute water bottle is incredibly sturdy and leakproof.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Mappinners Greatest 100 Hikes of the National Parks Scratch-Off Poster; $30

Amazon

The perfect gift for park baggers in your life (or yourself), this 16-inch-by-20-inch poster features epic hikes like Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park and Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. Once the hike is complete, you can scratch off the gold foil to reveal an illustration of the park.

Buy it: Amazon

5. National Geographic Adventure Edition Road Atlas; $19

Amazon

Hikers can use this brand-new, updated road atlas to plan their next adventure. In addition to comprehensive maps of all 50 states, Puerto Rico, Canada, and Mexico, they'll get National Geographic’s top 100 outdoor destinations, useful details about the most popular national parks, and points on the maps noting off-the-beaten-path places to explore.  

Buy it: Amazon

6. Adventure Medical Kits Hiker First-Aid Kit; $25

Amazon

This handy 67-piece kit is stuffed with all the things you hope your hiker will never need in the wilderness. Not only does it contain supplies for pain, cuts and scrapes, burns, and blisters (every hiker’s nemesis!), the items are organized clearly in the bag to make it easy to find tweezers or an alcohol wipe in an emergency.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Hiker Hunger Ultralight Trekking Poles; $70

Amazon

Trekking poles will help increase your hiker's balance and stability and reduce strain on their lower body by distributing it to their arms and shoulders. This pair is made of carbon fiber, a super-strong and lightweight material. From the sweat-absorbing cork handles to the selection of pole tips for different terrain, these poles answer every need on the trail. 

Buy it: Amazon

8. Leatherman Signal Camping Multitool; $120

Amazon

What can’t this multitool do? This gadget contains 19 hiking-friendly tools in a 4.5-inch package, including pliers, screwdrivers, bottle opener, saw, knife, hammer, wire cutter, and even an emergency whistle.

Buy it: Amazon

9. RAVPower Power Bank; $24

Amazon

Don’t let your hiker get caught off the grid with a dead phone. They can charge RAVPower’s compact power bank before they head out on the trail, and then use it to quickly juice up a phone or tablet when the batteries get low. Its 3-inch-by-5-inch profile won’t take up much room in a pack or purse.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Pack of Four Indestructible Field Books; $14

Amazon

Neither rain, nor snow, nor hail will be a match for these waterproof, tearproof 3.5-inch-by-5.5-inch notebooks. Your hiker can stick one in their pocket along with a regular pen or pencil to record details of their hike or brainstorm their next viral Tweet.

Buy it: Amazon

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Dress Up Your Guinea Pig for Halloween With Mini Costumes From PetSmart

PetSmart
PetSmart

Guinea pigs love socialization, so make sure to include them in your Halloween festivities this month. They can even dress up for the holiday: As Cosmopolitan reports, PetSmart has a line of cute and funny Halloween costumes designed to fit your tiny pet.

For several years, PetSmart has offered seasonal outfits for guinea pigs, including pumpkin, witch, and superhero costumes. The costumes featured in their Thrills & Chills collection for 2020 include a unicorn, a mermaid, and a hot dog. The ensembles are available to purchase in stores and online, and each one costs $7. You can shop for the perfect costume for your pet today at PetSmart.com.

PetSmart

PetSmart

No matter what kind of furry friend you have at home, there's a Halloween outfit out there for them. The costume options for cats and dogs are almost as diverse as they are for their human owners. From Wonder Woman to Darth Vader, here are some of the most adorable pet costumes to shop for this Halloween.

[h/t Cosmopolitan]

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