Independence Day History

Posted by Brett Oliver on Jul 03, 2013
Tags: Community, Recreation, Town News

Independence Day is a federal holiday in the United States commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, declaring independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain. Independence Day honors both the founding fathers and military veterans who have fought to defend Americans freedoms from any and all threats. The National holiday features fireworks, parades, barbecues, carnivals, fairs, picnics, concerts, baseball games, family reunions, and political speeches and ceremonies.

Independence Day Historical Timeline

Independence Day did not start out as the grand celebration that it has become today. Below is a historical timeline showing how the 4th of July evolved from 1777 to 1938.

  • 1777 - Thirteen gunshots were fired in salute, once at morning and once again as evening fell, on July 4 in Bristol, Rhode Island. Philadelphia celebrated the first anniversary in a manner a modern American would find quite familiar: an official dinner for the Continental Congress, toasts, 13-gun salutes, speeches, prayers, music, parades, troop reviews, and fireworks. Ships were decked with red, white, and blue bunting.
  • 1778 - General George Washington marked July 4 with a double ration of rum for his soldiers and an artillery salute. Across the Atlantic Ocean, ambassadors John Adams and Benjamin Franklin held a dinner for fellow Americans in Paris, France.
  • 1781 - The Massachusetts General Court became the first state legislature to recognize July 4 as a state celebration.
  • 1791 - The first recorded use of the name "Independence Day".
  • 1820 - The first Fourth of July celebration was held in Eastport, Maine, which remains the largest in the state.
  • 1870 - The U.S. Congress made Independence Day an unpaid holiday for federal employees.
  • 1938 - Congress changed Independence Day to a paid federal holiday.


  • Honoring of Military Veterans - American veterans are honored throughout the United States on July 4th.
  • Picnics and Barbeques - Outdoor picnics/barbeques with family and friends are a longstanding tradition for many Americans.
  • Fireworks displays - Firework displays commemorating Independence Day are held across the country on the evening of July 4th.
  • Patriotic music - "Star Spangled Banner", "God Bless America", "America the Beautiful", "My Country Tis of Thee", "This Land is Your Land", and "Stars and Stripes Forever"

Additional Resources