The Fourth of July—also known as Independence Day or July 4 has been a federal holiday in the United States since 1941.
But the tradition of Independence Day celebrations goes back to the 18th century and the American Revolution.
On July 2nd, 1776, the Continental Congress voted in favor of independence
Two days later, delegates from the 13 colonies adopted the Declaration of Independence, a historic document drafted by Thomas Jefferson. Some constitutional scholars argue that Americans should mark July 4th on July 2nd because of the historic vote.
In the modern day United States, thousands of communities organize annual displays of fireworks to celebrate the fourth. Among the most dazzling take place in the nation’s capital, Washington D.C.
And the tradition has a long history.
Congress authorized the use of pyrotechnics as part of Independence Day celebrations in 1777 in Philadelphia. They’ve been a mainstay of July fourth celebrations ever since.
In strange bit of history, three American presidents died on July 4 — two of them “Founding Fathers:” John Adams, and the original draftsman of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson. In yet another odd twist of history, the two former presidents died within hours of one another.
The fifth President of the United States, James Monroe, also passed away on July 4.
Many other stories surround the birth of the United States. Here’s an award-winning documentary produced by Frontline.