The Fourth of July: A Historic Day in Our History

Each day of the calendar, we can learn intriguing facts regarding our country’s rich history. Significant names, places, and events can foster a feeling of patriotism, respect, and emotion; yet, these feelings are often heightened on the day we celebrate our country’s independence. To judge by a letter of President John Adams to his wife, Abigail, he believed the day “…ought to be celebrated by pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations from one end of the continent to the other.” His words were a premonition of truth. Although Adams did not necessarily provide the correct date, July fourth has become an inspirational day of joyous beginnings and bittersweet endings.

1802: West Point Military Academy in New York opens.

1803: Although the Louisiana Purchase was signed on April 30th, the official treaty is received later in Washington D.C. and announced to the American people.

1817: Construction begins on the Erie Canal in Rome, New York.

1826: President John Adams dies. His last words are, “Thomas Jefferson survives,” yet he is unaware that his good friend, Thomas Jefferson, has died a few hours earlier in the day.

1828: To compete with the Erie Canal, Baltimore had sought to have a connection to Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. On July 4th, construction begins on the Baltimore-Ohio, widely known as the B&O, railroad.

1831: In Boston, “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” is first performed.

1855: Walt Whitman had spent most of his life revising his book of poetry titled Leaves of Grass, which began as a book of 12 poems and was expanded by the final revision to 400. The first edition is published on July 4th in Brooklyn, New York.

1862: Alice Liddell, a child friend, inspires Charles Dodgson, known as “Lewis Carroll,” to create a story about a bored young girl who goes looking for adventure during a family boat trip on the Thames River. Ironically, after several failed attempts at publication, including a print run of 2000 copies, Alice and Wonderland was published in New York in 1866 on the same day the story had first been imagined.

1863: Boise, Idaho is founded and named the state’s capital.

1884: Before she became “Lady Liberty,” the official name of the Statue of Liberty was “Liberty Enlightening the World.” As a gift from the French to America for having abolished slavery in 1865, Gustave Eiffel, who designed and constructed the Eiffel Tower, was given the task of building the statue as well. Her “reveal” occurs on July 4th in Paris, and Lady Liberty arrives in New York harbor with great fanfare the following June.

1894: Lyrics to “America the Beautiful” are published.

1931: Celebrations for America’s independence begin to change. The first fireworks display is held at Cleveland Stadium.

1939: On the initial “Old Timer’s Day,” the first uniform, Yankees #4, belonging to Lou Gehrig, is ceremoniously retired.

1959: Old Glory is unfurled to honor the statehood of Alaska and reveal the 49th star.

1960: The 50th star, representing Hawaii, is added.

1970: Casey Kasem’s “American Top 40” debuts on the radio.

1984: At the Firecracker 400 race, Richard Petty wins his 200th career victory in Daytona, Florida.

1997: NASA’s Pathfinder becomes the first U.S. spacecraft after 20 years to land on the planet Mars. (The mission takes seven months and covers 20 million miles.)

2004: In a solemn ceremony, the first cornerstone of the Freedom Tower is laid at the site of the World Trade Center in New York City.

2009: Eight years after the 911 attacks, the Statue of Liberty’s crown is reopened to the public. [

2016: NASA’s Juno spacecraft arrives in Jupiter’s orbit.

What will occur on Independence Day this year? While there are diverse opportunities to gather with family and good friends locally, just remember, as a spectator, you are part of our great nation’s history of celebration, whether in the midst of pomp or parade, shows or sport. Have a safe and wonderful Fourth of July!