By Kristy McCaffrey
The Fourth of July—or Independence Day—is a federal holiday in the United States commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. This document, ratified by the Second Continental Congress, set forth that the original thirteen American colonies were now a new nation—the United States of America—and no longer a part of the British Empire.
In actuality, the vote to separate from England occurred on July 2, 1776, but the date written on the Declaration of Independence—July 4—became the popular holiday. (It is also believed that the document itself wasn’t signed until August 2, 1776.) One of the signer’s (and the 2nd U.S. President), John Adams, had this to say in a letter to his wife, although he was incorrect about the date:
“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.”
Out west, Independence Day celebrations didn’t begin until the 1800’s. For example, the first Independence Day celebrated in Prescott, Arizona took place on July 4, 1864. The town was just over one month old but three hundred people attended the festivities, which included a parade of the cavalry from Fort Whipple and speeches by Governor John Goodwin (the first governor of the Arizona Territory) and Secretary of Territory Richard McCormick. A huge meal was laid out of fried liver, venison and beef steaks, mutton stew, barbecued beef, and pot pies alongside coffee, tea and milk. A local saloon also provided whiskey. Over time, this annual celebration became a modern-day rodeo in Prescott, purported to be the oldest rodeo in Arizona.
Today, not much has changed for Fourth of July celebrations. Americans engage in cookouts, barbecues, picnics, parades, carnivals, fairs, concerts, and of course fireworks.
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Kristy McCaffrey has been writing since she was very young, but it wasn’t until she was a stay-at-home mom that she considered becoming published. She’s the author of several historical western romances, all set in the American southwest. She lives in the Arizona desert with her husband, two chocolate labs, and whichever of their four teenage children happen to be in residence.
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