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LIZ DREIER | Fun Facts for the Fourth

As a former teacher and lifelong history buff, I’d like to share with you some of the lesser-known facts about this holiday.
Liz Dreier Column 08312020
Liz Dreier

Have you ever thought about why we celebrate the Fourth of July? It’s not just about hot dogs and fireworks.

As a former teacher and lifelong history buff, I’d like to share with you some of the lesser-known facts about this holiday.

• Why did John Hancock sign his name on the Declaration of Independence in giant letters? Tradition tells us that being a practical joker, Hancock hid the ink and the quill pens and sent the others out for office supplies. They got hopelessly lost in the streets of Philadelphia. By the time they figured out what was going on, Hancock had affixed his signature to the document, which, it turns out, was just a publicity stunt promoting his new insurance business.

• Most of the men didn’t sign the document until Aug. 2, 1776. They were waiting for the hotel rates to go down in Philadelphia.

• It wasn’t always called the Declaration of Independence. Some suggestions that didn’t make the cut include: "Our Long List of Grievances;" "Don’t Mess With Us Colonists;" "Top Ten Reasons Why We Want Our Independence;" and "Take That, King George."

• John Adams gets credit for coming up with the idea for setting off fireworks on the Fourth of July. Adams believed that the holiday should be celebrated “with illuminations from one end of this continent to the other from this time forward, forevermore.” It seemed like a great idea until his wife, Abigail, reminded him that even though it was legal to set off fireworks in Pennsylvania, they had to go all the way to the Ohio territory to buy them.

• The real story of how the Liberty Bell got cracked: George and Martha Washington dropped it trying to load it onto their wagon as they were getting ready to go to the Fourth of July barbecue at Thomas Jefferson’s house.

• It is reported that Jefferson and Ben Franklin had a huge argument shortly after the signing of the Declaration. Franklin is purported to have told Jefferson, “Don’t tread on me.” An anonymous bystander reported that at one point, Jefferson told Franklin to, “go fly a kite.” Franklin took that suggestion to heart, and the rest is history.

• Paul Revere was famous for his ride through the Massachusetts countryside, warning the colonists that “the British are coming.” But Mr. Revere never finished that ride. History tells us that he was captured by the British, who pressed him into joining a group of young men known as “The Raiders.” The Redcoats forced the group to wear weird costumes with frilly white shirts and sing ditzy songs for the British army.  

So, there you have it.  Some obscure facts about the early days of our country leading up to what we now refer to as Independence Day, not to be confused with a Will Smith movie by the same name. 

I hope this will give you something to chew on besides your hamburger this weekend as you celebrate the Fourth.

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