July 4: This Date in History: Independence Day
Events occuring on July 4
July 4, 1776– the Second Continental Congress unanimously adopted the Declaration of Independence, announcing the separation of the American colonies from Great Britain.July 4, 1778 – in the American Revolutionary War, American forces under George Clark capture Kaskaskia during the Illinois campaign.
July 4, 1802 – The United States Military Academy at West Point, New York opens.
July 4, 1803 – The Louisiana Purchase is announced to the American people.
1817 –Construction on the Erie Canal begins at Rome, New York.
1826 – Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States, dies the same day as John Adams, the second president of the United States, on the fiftieth anniversary of the adoption of the United States Declaration of Independence.
1827 – Slavery is legally abolished in New York State.
1831 – Samuel Francis Smith’s song, My Country, ‘Tis of Theewas first performed in public at a children’s Independence Day celebration at Park Street Church in Boston.
1855 – In Brooklyn, the first edition of Walt Whitman’s book of poems, titled Leaves of Grass, is published.
1863 – In the American Civil War, the Siege of Vicksburg ends as Vicksburg surrenders to Ulysses S. Grant’s Union army after a 47 day long siege.
1863- A Confederate Army is repulsed at the Battle of Helena, Arkansas in the American Civil War.
1886 – The people of France offer the Statue of Liberty to the people of the United States.
1910 – African-American boxer Jack Johnson knocks out white boxer Jim Jeffries in a heavyweight boxing match sparking race riots across the United States.
1939 – Lou Gehrig, recently diagnosed with Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (later to be known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease), tells a crowd at Yankee Stadium that he considers himself “The luckiest man on the face of the earth” as he announces his retirement from major league baseball.
1946–The Philippine, which had been a U.S. colony since the Spanish-American War of 1898, is given full independence from the United States.
1960- The 50-star flag of the United States debuts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The addition of two new stars was necessary due to the admission to the Union of Alaska and Hawaii in 1959.
1966 – President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Freedom of Information Act into United States law.
1997 – NASA’s Pathfinder space probe lands on the surface of Mars.
2004 – The cornerstone of the Freedom Tower is laid on the site of the World Trade Center in New York City.
1807 – Giuseppe Garibaldi, Italian military and political figure (d. 1882)
1816 – Hiram Walker, American grocer and distiller (d. 1899)
1826 – Stephen Foster, American songwriter (d. 1864)
1847 – James Anthony Bailey, American circus impresario (d. 1906)
1854 – Bill Tilghman, American gunslinger and peace officer (d. 1924)
1867 – Stephen Mather, American entrepreneur and conservationist (d. 1930)
1868 – Henrietta Swan Leavitt, American astronomer (d. 1921)
1872 – Calvin Coolidge, 30th President of the United States (d. 1933)
1881 – Ulysses S. Grant III, American soldier (d. 1968)
1882 – Louis B. Mayer, American film producer (d. 1957)
1883 – Rube Goldberg, American cartoonist (d. 1970)
1895 – Irving Caesar, American lyricist and composer (d. 1996)
1898 – Dr. Pilar Barbosa, Puerto Rican historian (d. 1997)
1898 – Gertrude Lawrence, English-born actress (d. 1952)
1902 – Meyer Lansky, Russian-born American gangster (d. 1983)
1902 – George Murphy, American entertainer (d. 1992)
1904 – Angela Baddeley, English actress (d. 1976)
1905 – Irving Johnson, American adventurer (d. 1991)
1907 – Gordon Griffith, American director (d. 1958)
1907 – Howard Taubman, American music and theater critic (d. 1996)
1910 – Gloria Stuart, American actress (d. 2010)
1911 – Mitch Miller, American entertainer (d. 2010)
1916 – Iva Toguri D’Aquino, American World War II figure (d. 2006)
1918 – Ann Landers, American advice columnist (d. 2002)
1918 – Abigail Van Buren, American advice columnist
1918 – Johnnie Parsons, American race car driver (d. 1984)
1920 – Norm Drucker, American basketball referee
1920 – Leona Helmsley, American hotel operator and real estate investor (d. 2007)
1924 – Eva Marie Saint, American actress
1927 – Gina Lollobrigida, Italian actress
1927 – Neil Simon, American playwright
1928 – Chuck Tanner, American baseball player (d. 2011)
1929 – Peter Angelos, majority owner of the Baltimore Orioles baseball team
1929 – Al Davis, American businessman
1929 – Bill Tuttle, American baseball player (d. 1998)
1930 – Frunzik Mkrtchyan, Armenian actor (d. 1993)
1930 – George Steinbrenner, American businessman (d. 2010)
1930 – Yuri Tyukalov, Soviet Olympic rower
1931 – Stephen Boyd, Northern Irish actor (d. 1977)
1931 – Sébastien Japrisot, French author, film director and screenwriter (d. 2003)
1932 – Aurèle Vandendriessche, Belgian athlete
1934 – Colin Welland, English actor
1935 – Paul Scoon, Governor General of Grenada
1937 – Thomas Nagel, American philosopher
1938 – Bill Withers, American singer and songwriter
1942 – Hal Lanier, American baseball player
1942 – Floyd Little, American football player
1943 – Geraldo Rivera, American reporter
1945 – Bruce French, American actor
1946 – Tish Howard, American model
1946 – Ron Kovic, American peace activist
1946 – Michael Milken, American financier
1946 – Ed O’Ross, American actor
1948 – Ed Armbrister, baseball player
1951 – Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, American politician
1954 – Jim Beattie, American baseball player
1954 – Morganna Roberts, American entertainer
1962 – Pam Shriver, American tennis player
1969 – Todd Marinovich, American football player
1971 – Brendan Donnelly, American baseball player
1972 – William Goldsmith, American drummer (Sunny Day Real Estate, Foo Fighters)
1826 – John Adams, 2nd President of the United States (b. 1735)
1826 – Thomas Jefferson 3rd President of the United States (b. 1743)
1831 – James Monroe, 5th President of the United States (b. 1758)
1848 – François-René de Chateaubriand, French writer (b. 1768)
1850 – William Kirby, English entomologist (b. 1759)
1854 – Karl Friedrich Eichhorn, German jurist (b. 1781)
1857 – William L. Marcy, American statesman (b. 1786)
1881 – Johan Vilhelm Snellman, Finnish statesman (b. 1806)
1882 – Joseph Brackett, American composer (b. 1797)
1891 – Hannibal Hamlin, U.S. Vice President (b. 1809)
1901 – Johannes Schmidt, German linguist (b. 1843)
1910 – Giovanni Schiaparelli, Italian astronomer (b. 1835)
1916 – Alan Seeger, American war poet (b. 1888)
1922 – Lothar von Richthofen, German pilot (b. 1894)
1926 – Pier Giorgio Frassati, Italian Saint (b. 1901)
1931 – Emanuele Filiberto, 2nd Duke of Aosta, Italian aristocrat (b. 1869)
1931 – Buddie Petit, American jazz musician (b. 1895)
1934 – Maria Sklodowska-Curie, Nobel Prize in Chemistry and Physics (b. 1867)
1938 – Otto Bauer, Austrian Social Democratic politician (b. 1881)
1938 – Suzanne Lenglen, French tennis player (b. 1899)
1941 – Antoni Lomnicki, Polish mathematician (b. 1881)
1946 – Gerda Steinhoff, Polish-born German concentration camp overseer (b. 1922)
1948 – Monteiro Lobato, Brazilian writer (b. 1882)
1963 – Bernard Freyberg, New Zealander statesman (b. 1889)
1964 – Henry (Hank) Sylvern, American radio personality (b. 1908)
1970 – Barnett Newman, American artist (b. 1905)
1970 – Harold Stirling Vanderbilt, American industrialist (b. 1884)
1971 – August Derleth, American writer and editor (b. 1909)
1976 – Yonatan Netanyahu, Israeli soldier and Entebbe rescue commander (b. 1946)
1984 – Jimmie Spheeris, American singer-songwriter (b. 1949)
1986 – Flor Peeters, Belgian composer and organist (b. 1903)
1986 – Oscar Zariski, Russian mathematician (b. 1899)
1988 – Adrian Adonis, American professional wrestler (b. 1954)
1989 – Jack Haig, British actor (b. 1913)
1991 – Victor Chang, Australian physician (b. 1936)
1992 – Ástor Piazzolla, Argentinian composer (b. 1921)
1993 – Bona Arsenault, French Canadian politician and historian (b. 1903)
1994 – Joey Marella, American professional wrestling referee (b. 1964)
1995 – Eva Gabor, Hungarian actress (b. 1919)
1995 – Bob Ross, American artist and television host (b. 1942)
1997 – Charles Kuralt, American television presenter (b. 1934)
1997 – John Zachary Young, English zoologist (b. 1907)
1999 – Leo Garel, American artist and cartoonist (b. 1917)
2000 – Gustaw Herling-Grudzinski, Polish writer (b. 1919)
2001 – Keenan Milton, American skateboarder (b. 1974)
2002 – Benjamin O. Davis Jr., American Air Force general (b. 1912)
2002 – Mansoor Hekmat, Iranian politician (b. 1951)
2002 – Winnifred Quick, American Titanic survivor (b. 1904)
2003 – André Claveau, French singer (b. 1915)
2003 – Barry White, American singer (b. 1944)
2004 – Jean-Marie Auberson, Swiss conductor (b. 1920)
2004 – Frank Robinson (Xylophone Man), British street entertainer (b. 1932)
2005 – Hank Stram, American football coach (b. 1923)
2007 – Baris Akarsu, Turkish rock musician (b. 1979)
2007 – Bill Pinkney, American singer and performer (b. 1925)
2008 – Jesse Helms, American politician (b. 1921)
2008 – Evelyn Keyes, American actress (b. 1916)
2008 – Terrence Kiel, American football player (b. 1980)
2008 – Charles Wheeler, British journalist (b. 1923)
2009 – Brenda Joyce, American actress (b. 1917)
2009 – Allen Klein, American music executive (b. 1931)
2009 – Drake Levin, American rock musician (b. 1946)
2009 – Steve McNair, American football player (b. 1973)
2009 – Lasse Strömstedt, Swedish writer (b. 1935)
2009 – Jean-Baptiste Tati Loutard, Congolese politician (b. 1938)
2009 – Jim Chapin, American drummer (b. 1919)
2010 – Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah, Iraqi-born Lebanese Shiite Muslim cleric and Hezbollah mentor (b. 1935)
2011 – Otto von Habsburg, last crown prince of Austria-Hungary (b. 1912)
On July 4, 1776, the Second Continental Congress unanimously adopted the Declaration of Independence, announcing the separation of the American colonies from Great Britain. While the Constitution provides the legal and governmental framework for the United States, the Declaration, with the eloquent assertion written by Thomas Jefferson, that “all Men are created equal,” is held in very high regard by the American people.
Citizens of Philidelphia (the first U.S. capital), in 1777, marked the first anniversary of American independence with a spontaneous celebration, which is described in a letter by John Adams to Abigail Adams. However, observing Independence Day only became a commonplace event after the War of 1812. Many regarded that war as America’s Second War of Independence, as it showed that the U.S. could stand up to the British, but only if Americans stood united against a common foe. Soon, important public events such as groundbreaking ceremonies for the Erie Canal and the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad were scheduled to coincide with July 4th festivities.
In 1859, the Banneker Institute of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, which was an abolitionist organization, urged African Americans to celebrate Independence Day while also bearing witness to the inconsistencies between the ideals espoused in the Declaration of Independence and the practice of slavery in America. Banneker’s orator of the day, Mr. Jacob C. White Jr., also promised his audience a brighter future:
We have learned by experience and by the comparison of ourselves with people similarly situated, to hope that, at some day not very far in futurity, our grievances will be redressed, that our long lost rights will be restored to us, and that, in the full stature of men, we will stand up, and with our once cruel opponents and oppressors rejoice in the Declaration of our common country, and hail with them the approach of the glorious natal day of the Great Republic.Mr. Jacob C. White Jr., Introductory Remarks,
The Celebration of the Eighty-Third Anniversary of the Declaration of American Independence&
Banneker Institute, July 4, 1859.
African American Perspectives: Pamphlets from the Daniel A. P. Murray Collection, 1818-1907
By the 1870s, the Fourth of July was the most important secular holiday on the calendar in the United States. Congress passed a law creating Independence Day as a federal holiday on June 28, 1870. In an American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers’ Project, 1936-1940 interview, Miss Nettie Spencer remembered the Fourth as the “big event of the year. Everyone in the countryside got together on that day for the only time in the year.” She continued,
There would be floats in the morning and the one that got the [girls?] eye was the Goddess of Liberty. She was supposed to be the most wholesome and prettiest girl in the countryside — if she wasn’t she had friends who thought she was. But the rest of us weren’t always in agreement on that&Following the float would be the Oregon Agricultural College cadets, and some kind of a band. Sometimes there would be political effigies.
Just before lunch – and we’d always hold lunch up for an hour – some Senator or lawyer would speak. These speeches always had one pattern. First the speaker would challenge England to a fight and berate the King and say that he was a skunk. This was known as twisting the lion’s tail. Then the next theme was that any one could find freedom and liberty on our shores. The speaker would invite those who were heavy laden in other lands to come to us and find peace. The speeches were pretty fiery and by that time the men who drank got into fights and called each other Englishmen. In the afternoon we had what we called the ‘plug uglies’ — funny floats and clowns who took off on the political subjects of the day&The Fourth was the day of the year that really counted then. Christmas wasn’t much; a Church tree or something, but no one twisted the lion’s tail.
“Rural Life in the 1870s,”
Walker Winslow, interviewer, December 15, 1938.
American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers’ Project, 1936-1940
Down in the South, the celebration was much the same. Ninety-six-year-old Dr. Samuel B. Lathan recalled the Independence Day celebrations of his South Carolina childhood:
The Fourth of July was observed at Caldwell Cross Roads. The military companies of infantry would assembly here from the surrounding counties making up a brigade. A drill and inspection were had, and a dress parade followed. There was an old cannon mounted on the field. The honor of firing it was assigned to Hugh Reed, who had been in the artillery of Napoleon’s army at Waterloo and afterward emigrated to South Carolina. A great barbecue and picnic dinner would be served; candidates for military, state, and national offices would speak; hard liquor would flow; and each section would present its ‘bully of the woods’ in a contest for champion in a fist and skull fight. Butting, biting, eye gouging, kicking, and blows below the belt were barred. It was primitive prize fighting.”Dr. Samuel B. Lathan,”
Winnboro, South Carolina,
W. W. Dixon, interviewer,
American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers’ Project, 1936-1940