When you think of July 4th, you may think of fireworks, flags, hot dogs and cookouts, but the reason behind all of the fun is so much more important. July 4th, 1776, marks the day America declared its independence from Britain, and while we're pretty familiar with the role the founding fathers played in those early days, there may be a few facts you don't know. From Liberty Bell myths and political rivalries to how the Declaration of Independence could've been a very different document, here are 7 things you didn't know about July 4th.
While we all recognize July 4th, 1776, as the day America's first Continental Congress declared independence from the British monarchy, the official vote on the matter actually happened two days earlier. The Declaration was published in the papers on July 4th, which may be why we settled on that date for the holiday.
No, our founding fathers didn't have WiFi back in the day, but Thomas Jefferson did draft one of the most important documents in history on a laptop. Of course, in those times, a laptop was a small writing desk you could fit on your lap, not a Mac.
Just as many believe July 4th was the actual day our founding fathers voted on independence, it's widely thought that all 56 delegates of the first Continental Congress signed the Declaration together. In reality, it took over a month after the inital vote to collect each man's signature and yes, John Hancock was the first to make his mark.
Legend goes that when independence was voted on, the Liberty Bell was rung and it could be heard across the land. Because there was no immediate announcement made, however, that probably isn't the case. The Bell acquired its trademark crack in the 19th century and now, every July 4th, it's tapped 13 times to signal for bells across the country to start ringing.
One of the most recognizable phrases in the Declaration crafted by Thomas Jefferson could've sounded markedly different. The initial wording was "life, liberty and the pursuit of property" until Jefferson thought better of it and changed it to "pursuit of happiness."
The Bald Eagle is a symbol of American indepence and freedom, but if Benjamin Franklin had his way, we'd have a different bird as our nation's mascot. In a letter to his daughter Sarah Bache in 1784, Franklin wrote that he was displeased that the bald eagle had been chosen as the symbol for the nation:
"He is a Bird of bad moral character. He does not get his Living honestly," he wrote. "You may have seen him perched on some dead Tree near the River, where, too lazy to fish for himself, he watches the Labour of the Fishing Hawk."
Franklin thought the turkey a more respectable bird, one who was native to America and possessed courage.
July 4th doesn't just signify the date our country declared it's independence, it also marks an extraordinary coincidence. Thomas Jefferson and John Adams -- two men responsible for building our great nation -- both died on the same day, July 4, 1826, 50 years after they signed the Declaration of Independence. While Jefferson and Adams began their political careers as rivals, they later became friends and it's even believed that Adams' last words were about this fellow founder.
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