Origins of Fourth of July

History of the Fourth of July

Today, Americans from coast to coast spend July 4th celebrating our nation's independence and the freedoms we enjoy as a result. Over the years, many important events have occurred on this day. The following are some of the most historic.

1778 – From his headquarters in Brunswick, New Jersey, General George Washington directs his army to put "green boughs" in their hats, issues them a double allowance of rum and orders a Fourth of July artillery salute.

1781 – The first official state celebration occurs in Massachusetts.

1787 – John Quincy Adams celebrates the Fourth in Boston, where he hears an oration delivered at the Old Brick Meeting House.

1788 – Fourth celebrations first become political as factions fight over the adoption of the Federal Constitution.

1791 – The only Fourth of July address ever made by George Washington takes place at Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

1798 – George Washington attends the celebration in Alexandria, Virginia, and dines with a large group of citizens and military officers of Fairfax County. In Portsmouth, New Hampshire, the keel of the 20-gun sloop of the war vessel Portsmouth is laid.

1800 – In New York City, the first local advertisements for fireworks appear. At the Mount Vernon Garden there, a display of "a model of General Washington's Mount Vernon home, 20 feet long by 24 feet high, illuminated by several hundred lamps" is presented. In Hanover, New Hampshire, Dartmouth College student Daniel Webster gives his first Fourth of July oration in the town's meeting house.

1801 – The first public Fourth of July reception at the White House occurs.

1804 – The first Fourth of July celebration west of the Mississippi happens at Independence Creek, Idaho, and is celebrated by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark.

1805 – Boston has its first fireworks display.

1819 – An early and rare example of an Independence Day oration is presented (to a group of women) by a woman ("Mrs. Mead") on July 3 at Mossy Spring in Kentucky.

1821 – President James Monroe is ill, and the Executive Mansion is closed to the public. John Quincy Adams reads an original copy of the Declaration of Independence at a ceremony at the Capitol.

1825 – President John Q. Adams marches to the Capitol from the White House in a parade that includes a stage mounted on wheels, representing 24 states.

1826 – The 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence is celebrated (referred to as the "Jubilee of Freedom" event). Two signers of the document, Presidents John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, both die on this July 4.

1827 – The State of New York emancipates its slaves.

1828 – Charles Carroll, the last surviving signer of the Declaration of Independence, participates in a Baltimore, Maryland celebration and assists in the laying of the "first stone" of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad.

1831 – Former President James Monroe dies on July 4.

1832 – New York has a subdued Fourth of July celebration due to a cholera epidemic.

1835 – In Boston, George Robert Twelves Hewes, a shoemaker, is honored at a celebration as the last survivor of the Boston Tea Party. The National Intelligencer prints the text of "Washington's Farewell Address."

1848 – In Washington, D.C., the laying of the cornerstone of the Washington Monument takes place with the President James Madison, First Lady Dolly Madison and other VIPs in attendance.

1851 – In Washington, D.C., President Millard Fillmore assists in the laying of the "cornerstone of the new Capitol edifice," while Senator Daniel Webster gives his last Fourth of July oration there.

1852 – In Rochester, New York, on July 5, abolitionist Frederick Douglass presents his famous speech, "What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?"

1861 – President Abraham Lincoln sends an address to both houses of Congress regarding the suspension of Federal government functions by secessionists in the South.

1866 – General George G. Meade watches 10,000 war veterans parade in Philadelphia. General William T. Sherman gives an address in Salem, Illinois.

1868 – President Andrew Johnson issues his Third Amnesty Proclamation in Washington, D.C. directed to those who participated in the Civil War.

1873 – Mark Twain gives a Fourth of July address in London.

1876 – Centennial celebrations are held throughout the United States and abroad.

1879 – Frederick Douglass addresses the citizens of Frederick, Maryland.

1880 – General James A. Garfield is guest speaker at the dedication of the Soldiers' Monument in Painesville, Ohio. In Boston, a statue of Revolutionary War patriot Samuel Adams is unveiled. In San Francisco, the first daytime fireworks ever exhibited in the country takes place at Woodward's Gardens.

1881 – In Washington, D.C., the Chief of Police issues an order banning all fireworks due to the shooting of President Garfield; at the same time, prayer meetings for the President's recovery are held in lieu of Fourth celebrations throughout the country.

1884 – The formal presentation of the Statue of Liberty takes place in the Gauthier workshop in Paris.

1889 – President William Henry Harrison gives a speech in Woodstock, Connecticut; he is the third President to be in Woodstock on July 4.

1899 – Governor Theodore Roosevelt gives a speech at his home town, Oyster Bay, New York, as other speakers predict he will be the next President. In Plymouth, England, all British warships are decorated with flags and a 21-gun salute is fired. Mark Twain addresses the American Society at a dinner in London.

1902 – Two hundred thousand people hear President Theodore Roosevelt give a speech in Schenley Park in Pittsburgh.

1910 – A bronze statue of George Washington is unveiled at Independence Hall in Philadelphia.

1912 – The new national flag with 48 stars is "formally and officially endowed."

1915 – Orator and former Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan gives a speech on "Universal Peace" in Philadelphia.

1916 – In Washington, D.C., President Woodrow Wilson gives a speech at the dedication of the new American Federation of Labor building.

1919 – One of the peaks in the Black Hills near Deadwood, South Dakota is renamed Mt. Theodore Roosevelt in honor of the former President. Panama celebrates its first official Fourth of July.

1921 – A large anti-prohibition parade takes place in New York, and British music and jazz are forbidden as 50 bands march in an American Association for the Recognition of the Irish Republic parade.

1923 – President Warren G. Harding addresses citizens of Portland, Oregon, and is initiated into the Cayuse Tribe at the Oregon Trail Celebration.

1926 – The 150th Anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence takes place throughout the nation.

1930 – Gutzon Borgium's 60-foot face of George Washington is carved on Mount Rushmore in Keystone, South Dakota.

1940 – President Franklin D. Roosevelt officially turns over to the federal government the library bearing his name.

1942 – Fireworks in most cities are canceled due to war blackouts.

1946 – Americans observe the first peacetime Fourth of July in five years, as occupation troops celebrate with parades and artillery salutes in Germany and Japan.

1947 – In Washington, D.C., the Fourth ceremony at the Monument Grounds is televised for the first time.

1959 – President Dwight D. Eisenhower gives a speech and lays the third cornerstone in the 166-year history of the U.S. Capitol. The 49-star American flag waves for the first time as Alaska achieves statehood.

1960 – The 50-star American flag waves for the first time as Hawaii is granted statehood.

1961 – In Philadelphia, the flag that flies continuously over the grave of Betsy Ross (this country's first American flag-maker) is stolen.

1964 – A recorded reading of the Declaration of Independence by slain President John F. Kennedy is broadcast over radio airwaves. In Prescott, Arizona, Senator Barry Goldwater rides a horse in the annual Frontier Days Rodeo parade.

1966 – The Freedom of Information Act is signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson.

1968 – Anti-war demonstrations mar speeches given by Vice President Hubert Humphrey in Philadelphia and Governor George Wallace in Minneapolis.

1974 – A reenactment of the Frederick Douglass speech "What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?" takes place at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

1976 –The nation's Bicentennial is celebrated across America. At 2:00 pm Eastern time, the time the Declaration of Independence was originally approved, churches and citizens throughout the nation ring bells to mark the occasion. "Operation Sail" takes place in New York City harbor, where millions watch hundreds of ships, representing 22 nations, parade. In Boston, the USS Constitution fires her cannons for the first time in 95 years. Over the course of the day, the largest number of American flags (10,471) ever flown at one time, fly over the U.S. Capitol. President Gerald Ford gives a speech at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania.

1980 – Throughout the country, the Fourth is observed amid somber recognition of the 53 American citizens held hostage in Iran; residents in Cleveland plant 53 trees in the hostages' memory.

1981 – President Reagan, recovering from an assassin's bullet, leaves George Washington Hospital in Washington, D.C. for the first time to view the fireworks at the Mall.

1982 – President Reagan gives a welcome speech for astronauts Thomas K. Mattingly and Henry W. Hartsfield as they land the space shuttle Columbia at Edwards Air Force Base in California.

1992 – The seven astronauts on the shuttle Columbia unfurl the Stars and Stripes and chant "Happy Birthday, America" from space. The Navy unveils a new aircraft carrier, the USS George Washington, with Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney giving a speech.

1993 – Johnny Cash recites his patriotic poem "Rugged Old Flag" in Washington, D.C. while citizens there hold flags in honor of prisoners of war and servicemen missing in action from the Vietnam War.

1996 – Fourth of July greetings are sent by astronauts on the shuttle Columbia in space.

1999 – In Philadelphia, 112 people, all born on the Fourth of July since 1900, gather in front of Independence Hall for a "Photo of the Century."

2000 – "Operation Sail 2000," the largest assemblage of ships ever at one event, takes place in New York City. It includes some 150 tall sailing ships from more than 20 nations and an 11-mile line of more than two dozen naval ships from around the world.

2001 – Public readings of the Declaration of Independence take place throughout the country, including the National Archives in Washington, D.C., the Art Museum in Philadelphia and the Old State House in Boston. From the International Space Station, astronauts proclaim "We give thanks to our ancestors ... to all Americans, Happy Independence Day."

2002 – The most intense security precautions in the history of the Fourth of July take place across the country in light of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center Towers in September 11, 2001; Americans celebrate anyway, voicing their jubilation about freedoms enjoyed in this country.

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