From sea to shining sea, the good old U.S. of A. will be celebrating its 242nd birthday tomorrow. And from the Great Northwest to the Great Lakes, from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico, Sunshine residents will be enjoying a star-spangled variety of activities, including barbecues and picnics, live music and sing-alongs, community parades and even patriotic pet dress-ups.
But while Independence Day is one of our oldest and most popular national holidays, how well do you really know it? Let’s take a little snap, crackle, pop quiz to see if you are an expert. Or if you need to go back to History class.
True or False: The 4th of July celebrates the official signing of the Declaration of Independence.
True, right? Wrong! The resolution was actually signed and approved by the Continental Congress in a closed session on July 2, 1776, which is the date John Adams thought would be the day commemorated for years to come. In a letter to his wife, he wrote:
The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.
As it turned out, the official declaration proclaiming the independence of the United States from Great Britain was dated and formally adopted by 12 Colonies on July 4, 1776. A couple of centuries later, you have to admit, the 4th of July has a nice ring to it.
How many people signed the Declaration of Independence?
a. 24 b. 36 c. 42 d. 56
Answer: d. 56 brave men put their “John Hancocks” on the document in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Give yourself a bonus point if you know the largest of the signatures. You guessed it: John Hancock.
Which of the following was not one of the original 13 American Colonies?
a. Georgia b. Massachusetts c. Vermont d. North Carolina
Answer: c. Vermont, which became the 14th Colony in 1791. The other 10 Colonies that ultimately became states were: Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Virginia.
Who was the King of Great Britain in 1776?
a. George II b. George III c. Henry IX d. Arthur II
Answer: b. King George III was on the throne from 1760 until his death 1820, the longest tenure of any British monarch until Queen Victoria. He became known as the “mad king who lost America.” But historians now claim his “madness” was the result of a genetic blood disorder.
What year were fireworks first used in an official 4th of July celebration?
a. 1777 b. 1812 c. 1876 d. 1901
Answer: a. 1777. Congress didn’t waste any time authorizing the use of fireworks to help mark the first anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. The celebration, which took place in Philadelphia, also included bonfires and bells.
Which president first held a 4th of July celebration at the White House?
a. George Washington b. John Adams c. Thomas Jefferson d. James Madison
Answer: Well, it couldn’t be George Washington, because the White House hadn’t been constructed yet. Though John Adams was the first president to occupy the White House, the correct answer is c. Thomas Jefferson opened the Executive Mansion to diplomats, civil and military officers and Cherokee chiefs on July 4, 1801. The day didn’t become a federal holiday until 1870.
Which U.S. presidents died on July 4?
a. Thomas Jefferson and Calvin Coolidge
b. John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison
c. Thomas Jefferson and Ronald Reagan
d. John Adams and Andrew Johnson
Answer: b. Quite ironically, the two former presidents, once fellow patriots and later political rivals, died within hours of each other on July 4, 1826. Jefferson was 83; Adams, 90. Madison became the third president in a row to die on July 4 in 1831.
Which U.S. president was born on Independence Day?
a.James Buchanan b. William Howard Taft c. Calvin Coolidge d. None of the above
Answer: c. The only president born on Independence Day was Calvin Coolidge, our nation’s 30th president, who was born in Plymouth Notch, Vermont in 1872.
How many people were living in the United States of America on July 4, 1776?
a. 950,000 b. 2.5 million c. 6 million d. 9 million
Answer: b. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates 2.5 million were scattered throughout in the Colonies.
Finally, True or False: Every year, Americans consume more than 150 million hot dogs on the 4th of July.
True! That’s a lot of ketchup and mustard.
Whether you aced the quiz or not, wherever you may be and however you celebrate, we hope your 4th of July is a real sparkler.
This blog was first published here: Sunshine Retirement Living, July, 2018.