I think that most Americans know enough about our country’s history to realize that today is a celebration of the signing and approval of the Declaration of Independence, beginning our fight for independence in 1776. But I also think that most of us take the holiday for granted, and view it as just another day off from work, particularly this year when it creates a long weekend for many of us. But few of us know much else about the holiday; in fact, I learned a lot as I researched it, such as:
1. In 1778, General George Washington gave his troops a double ration of rum to observe the date. Fortunately, they were recovering from the Battle of Monmouth and didn’t have to prepare for another battle.
2. In 1779, July 4 was on a Sunday, so the celebrations were held on Monday…perhaps that set the precedent for what we do today.
3. In 1781, Massachusetts was the first state to make it an official state celebration
4. The first time July 4 was referred to as Independence Day was in 1791
5. It was made an unpaid holiday for federal workers in 1870
6. It was finally declared a paid federal holiday in 1938
7. The oldest continuous July 4th celebration has been held in Bristol, Rhode Island since 1785.
So whatever you do today, remember the intent of Independence Day as you celebrate!
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Randolph Mase, Fiction Writer
Death on Broadway
Death Beneath the Streets
Death in Central Park
Death in the Cloisters (coming very soon!)