Annie's "4th of July Symbols & Things" Page

In the United States, Independence Day is
celebrated on July 4th. On that day in 1776,
the Continental Congress adopted
the Declaration of Independence.

The movement for independence (1754-1783)

Relations between the American Colonies and Great Britain began to break down during the mid-1700's. Little by little, Britain tightened its control over the colonies. Its leaders passed laws that taxed the colonists and restricted their freedom. The colonists had become accustomed to governing themselves, and had developed a sense of unity and independence. As a result, they deeply resented what they considered British interference in their affairs. Friction between the Americans and British mounted, and, on April 19, 1775, the Revolutionary War broke out between the two sides. During the war--on July 4, 1776--the colonists boldly declared their independence from their mighty British rulers. In 1783, they defeated the British and made their claim to independence stick.


Liberty Bell
is a treasured relic of the early days of American independence. It was rung July 8, 1776, with other church bells, to announce the adoption of the Declaration of Independence. Its inscription, "Proclaim Liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof," is from the Bible (Lev. 25:10).

The Liberty Bell weighs over 2,080 pounds (943 kilograms). The colonial province of Pennsylvania paid about $300 for it in 1752. Today the bell hangs in Liberty Bell Pavilion, just north of Independence Hall in Philadelphia.

The Liberty Bell was first cast in England. It broke in ringing after its arrival and was recast in Philadelphia from the same metal, with the same inscription, in 1753. The Liberty Bell rang at each successive anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration until 1835. The bell broke on July 8 that year, while being rung during the funeral of John Marshall, chief justice of the United States. It became known as the Liberty Bell about 1839, when abolitionists began to refer to it that way. Previously, the bell had been called the Old State House Bell.

The Liberty Bell is no longer rung, but it has been struck on special occasions. On June 6, 1944, when Allied forces landed in France, Philadelphia officials struck the bell. Sound equipment broadcast the tone to all parts of the nation. Independence Hall was the permanent residence of the bell from 1753 until Jan. 1, 1976, when it was moved to the pavilion.


REVOLUTIONARY WAR IN AMERICA - The beginning of the war:

Fighting broke out between American patriots and British soldiers in April 1775. The Americans in each colony were defended at first by the members of their citizen army, the militia. The militiamen came out to fight when the British neared their homes. The patriots soon established a regular military force known as the Continental Army. Britain depended chiefly on professional soldiers who had enlisted for long terms. The British soldiers were known as redcoats because they wore bright red jackets.

The patriots won several victories in New England and the Southern Colonies during the early months of the Revolutionary War. As the fighting spread, many Americans became convinced of the need to cut their ties with Great Britain. In July 1776, more than a year after the start of the Revolutionary War, the colonies adopted the Declaration of Independence.


Religious and political reasons for coming to America:
Some of the colonists, beginning with the Pilgrims in 1620, came to the New World to create communities where they could worship in their own way. Throughout the colonial period, many groups headed for the colonies to escape persecution for their religious beliefs. Among those religious groups were Quakers and Roman Catholics from England, Huguenots from France, Moravians from Germany, and Jews from throughout Europe.


Parade is a public march or procession honoring a particular occasion. The mood of a parade may vary from joyous excitement to solemn dignity. Members of the armed forces often parade on holidays to show off their strength, condition, equipment, and skill. Many parades have floats, music, marchers, and trained animals.

Parades in the form of religious processions go back to about 3000 B.C. Ancient cities often had special, elaborately constructed streets whose main function was to provide a place for processions. The Romans enjoyed parades, especially the processions of the performers at the circus. They also had frequent military parades, called triumphs, during the time of the empire. Parades to honor particular feasts became popular in the early Christian church, and remain so today. Political parades were especially popular in the United States in the 1880's and 1890's.


Watermelon is a large, sweet fruit. Watermelons consist of about 93 per cent water. They have a smooth rind (hard outer skin) and juicy, edible flesh. Most watermelons also have many seeds. The rind is striped or solid and ranges in color from gray-green to dark green. The flesh of ripe watermelons is white, greenish-white, yellow, orange, pink, or red. Most watermelons weigh from 5 to 40 pounds (2.3 to 18.1 kilograms), but some weigh as much as 100 pounds (45.4 kilograms). Their shape varies from round to oblong. Watermelons provide a good source of potassium and vitamins A and C. They are eaten fresh, often in salads or as a dessert. The rind is sometimes pickled and used to make relish.

Watermelons grow on vines. For this reason--and because they must be replanted annually--watermelons are considered by horticulturists to be vegetables.

As a watermelon ripens, the rind color becomes dull and the top of the fruit flattens slightly. A ripe watermelon makes a hollow thud when thumped.

The watermelon plant probably originated in Africa. Watermelons are known to have been grown in New England as early as 1629. Today, Turkey and China are the world's leading producers of watermelons. Major watermelon-producing states in the United States include Florida, Texas, and Georgia.


Uncle Sam: Uncle Sam is a figure that symbolizes the United States. The term originated as an unfriendly nickname for the U.S. government during the War of 1812.

The term "Uncle Sam" was used as early as 1813. In that year, a Troy, N.Y., newspaper stated that it apparently had arisen because of the initials "U.S." on government wagons. In 1816, the nickname appeared in a book title, The Adventures of Uncle Sam. It was later asserted that the term had its origin in a specific person--Samuel "Uncle Sam" Wilson of Troy, N.Y., who supplied the army with "U.S."-stamped barrels of provisions.

The costume of Uncle Sam, decorated with stars and stripes, originated in cartoons of the 1830's and 1840's. But the figure did not assume its present form until after the Civil War (1861-1865). In 1961, Congress passed a resolution saluting Samuel Wilson as the person who inspired America's national symbol.


Fireworks: Fireworks are combinations of gunpowder and other ingredients that explode with loud noises and colorful sparks and flames when they burn. Fireworks are also called pyrotechnics. Fireworks that only make a loud noise are called firecrackers. Fireworks are dangerous because they contain gunpowder. They should be handled only by experts. Fireworks handled improperly can explode and cause serious injury to the untrained user. Most states prohibit the use of fireworks by individuals. The federal government limits the explosive power of fireworks that can be used by individuals.

How fireworks work: Fireworks rockets, also called skyrockets, operate on a principle close to that used in large military rockets. A fuse, which may be made of rolled paper soaked with saltpeter, ignites the coarse gunpowder charge, forming gases that stream out of the end of the paper tube. This propels the rocket into the air. When the rocket is near its highest point of flight, the coarse gunpowder ignites the finer charge, and the finer charge explodes. The explosion breaks up the rocket and ignites many small firecrackers in the nose (forward section) of the rocket.
Related Site:
How Fireworks Work


Fifty-six members of the Continental Congress signed the engrossed
parchment copy of the Declaration. Most members signed on Aug. 2, 1776.
The rest signed on later dates.


The signers, in alphabetical
order, were:

John Adams (Mass.)
Samuel Adams (Mass.)
Josiah Bartlett (N.H.)
Carter Braxton (Va.)
Charles Carroll (Md.)
Samuel Chase (Md.)
Abraham Clark (N.J.)
George Clymer (Pa.)
William Ellery (R.I.)
William Floyd (N.Y.)
Benjamin Franklin (Pa.)
Elbridge Gerry (Mass.)
Button Gwinnett (Ga.)
Lyman Hall (Ga.)
John Hancock (Mass.)
Benjamin Harrison (Va.)
John Hart (N.J.)
Joseph Hewes (N.C.)
Thomas Heyward, Jr. (S.C.)
William Hooper (N.C.)
Stephen Hopkins (R.I.)
Francis Hopkinson (N.J.)
Samuel Huntington (Conn.)
Thomas Jefferson (Va.)
Francis Lightfoot Lee (Va.)

Richard Henry Lee (Va.)
Francis Lewis (N.Y.)
Philip Livingston (N.Y.)
Thomas Lynch, Jr. (S.C.)
Thomas McKean (Del.)
Arthur Middleton (S.C.)
Lewis Morris (N.Y.)
Robert Morris (Pa.)
John Morton (Pa.)
Thomas Nelson, Jr. (Va.)
William Paca (Md.)
Robert T. Paine (Mass.)
John Penn (N.C.)
George Read (Del.)
Caesar Rodney (Del.)
George Ross (Pa.)
Benjamin Rush (Pa.)
Edward Rutledge (S.C.)
Roger Sherman (Conn.)
James Smith (Pa.)
Richard Stockton (N.J.)
Thomas Stone (Md.)
George Taylor (Pa.)
Matthew Thornton (N.H.)
George Walton (Ga.)
William Whipple (N.H.)
William Williams (Conn.)
James Wilson (Pa.)
John Witherspoon (N.J.)
Oliver Wolcott (Conn.)
George Wythe (Va.)


Interesting information about the Declaration of Independence
Declaration of Independence is the historic document in which the American
Colonies declared their freedom from Britain. The Second Continental
Congress, a meeting of delegates from the colonies, adopted the
Declaration on July 4, 1776. This date has been celebrated ever since
as the birthday of the United States.

The Declaration of Independence eloquently expressed the colonies'
reasons for proclaiming their freedom. The document blamed the
British government for many abuses. However, it also stated that all
people have certain rights, including the right to change or overthrow
any government that denies them their rights. The ideas expressed
so majestically in the Declaration have long inspired
freedom-loving people throughout the world.

As the fighting intensified, hopes of reconciliation with Britain faded.
On June 7, 1776, Richard Henry Lee of Virginia introduced a resolution
to the Second Continental Congress stating that "these United Colonies
are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States ..." After
several days of debate, the Congress appointed a committee to draft
a declaration of independence. The committee gave the task to Thomas
Jefferson of Virginia, who completed the work in about two weeks.
Two other members, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania and John
Adams of Massachusetts, made a few minor changes.

When was the Adoption of the Declaration?
On July 2, the Congress approved the Lee resolution. The delegates
then began to debate Jefferson's draft. A few passages, including
one condemning King George for encouraging the slave trade, were
removed. Most other changes dealt with style. On July 4, the
Congress adopted the final draft of the Declaration of Independence.

Who were the first two signers of the Declaration?
The Declaration was signed by John Hancock as president of the Second
Continental Congress and by Charles Thomson, the Congress's secretary.
It was promptly printed and read to a large crowd in the State House
yard on July 8. On July 19, the Congress ordered the Declaration to be
engrossed (written in stylish script) on parchment. It also ordered that all
its members sign the engrossed copy. Eventually, 56 members signed.

Where is the original Declaration of Independence?
The original parchment copy of the Declaration is housed in the National
Archives Building in Washington, D.C. It is displayed with two other
historic American documents--the United States Constitution
and the Bill of Rights.

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