History Of July 4:
The Declaration of Independence, unanimously declared by the thirteen United States of America, was adopted by the Continental Congress in Philadelphia on July 4, 1776. The task of getting the document signed began on August 2, 1776. Congress made sure that all states would have access to an authenticated copy of the Declaration by ordering a special printing of multiple copies on January 18, 1777.
The first celebrations occurred shortly after the declaration in various locales along the Eastern Seaboard. Much of the tradition inherent in the way we celebrate today was evident almost from the beginning. Sound, spectacle, and sentiment played an important role in that tradition. In New York, the "Declaration of Independence was read at the head of each brigade of the continental army posted at and near New York, and every where received with loud huzzas and the utmost demonstrations of joy". Of particular note, "the equestrian statue of George III" on display in New York was torn down. The report stated that the lead from which the monument was made was to be turned into bullets (Virginia Gazette, 26 July 1776).
One of the most elaborate celebrations in 1777 and the first organized celebration of its kind occurred in Philadelphia. This event had all of the elements of typical future celebrations the discharge of cannon, one round for each state in the union, the ringing of bells, a dinner, the use of music, the drinking of toasts (it would subsequently be traditional to have one toast for each state in the union), "loud huzzas", a parade, fireworks, and the use of the nation's colors, in this case the dressing up of "armed ships and gallies" in the harbor.
+ 1801-The first public Fourth of July reception at the White House occurs; in Marblehead, Mass., an oration is given by Joseph Story at the New Meeting House; in Boston, the frigates U.S.S. Constitution and U.S.S. Boston and the French corvette Berceau fire artillery salutes.
+ 1804The first Fourth of July celebration west of the Mississippi occurs at Independence Creek and is celebrated by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark.
+ 1814The Fourth is celebrated in Honolulu, Hawaii, with a dinner, and artillery salutes are fired from ships in the harbor there; Uri K. Hill sings an "Ode"written especially for the occasion in New York while Commodore Stephen Decatur, an honorary member of the State Society of the Cincinnati, dines with that association in Tontine Coffee House there; the Declaration of Independence is printed in the 4 July edition of the Philadelphia Aurora General Advertiser; in Ashburton, England, American prisoners there celebrate the Fourth of July and drink 18 toasts.
+ 182650th anniversary (referred to as the "Jubilee of Freedom" event) of the signing of the Declaration of Independence and two signers of the document, Presidents John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, die; in Providence, R.I., four men who participated in the capture of the British armed schooner Gaspe during the Revolutionary War ride in a parade; in New York, four gold medals are struck by the Common Council: three are sent to the surviving signers of the Declaration, and the fourth is given to the son of Robert Fulton, in honor of the "genius in the application of steam:" in Lynchburg, Va., among the "aged patriots of '76" at the celebration there are General John Smith and Captain George Blakenmore; in Newport, R.I., Major John Handy reads the Declaration of Independence, "on the identical spot which he did 50 years ago", and was accompanied by Isaac Barker of Middletown, "who was at his side in the same place fifty years before."; in Worcester, Mass., at the South Meeting House, Isaiah Thomas stands on the spot where he originally read the Declaration of Independence in 1776; the Frederick-Town Herald of Frederick, Md., decides to no longer publish dinner toasts which they believe are "generally dull, insipid affairs, about which few feel any interest"; in Salem, N.C., the Moravian Male Academy is dedicated; in Quincy, Mass., Miss Caroline Whitney gives an address on the occasion of the presentation of a flag to the Quincy Light Infantry; in Arlington, Va., Washington's tent, the same which the General used at the heights of Dorchester in 1775, is erected near the banks of the Potomac and is used for a celebration.
+ 1851In Washington, President Millard Fillmore assists in the laying of the "cornerstone of the new Capitol edifice" while Daniel Webster gives his last Fourth of July oration there; in Trappe, Pa., a monument to the memory of Francis R. Shunk, late Governor of Pennsylvania, is unveiled and George W. Woodward presents an address there; Greenville, S.C., holds an antisecession celebration with 4,000 persons in attendance.
+ 1861President Lincoln sends an address to both Houses of Congress regarding the suspension of Federal government functions by secessionists in the South; Galusha A. Grow is the only Speaker of the House of Representatives ever to be elected and take office on the 4th of July; an artillery salute of 15 guns is fired at Camp Jackson near Pigs Point, Va., in honor of the Southern States that have declared and are declaring their independence; in Baltimore, the citizens there present a "splendid silk national flag, regimental size", to the Sixth Massachusetts Regiment; in Washington, D.C., 29 New York regiments are reviewed by the President at the White House; Gov. John A. Andrew of Massachusetts celebrates the 4th with the 1st Massachusetts Regiment at Camp Banks near Georgetown, D.C.
+ 1865One of the first "Freedmen" celebrations occurs, in Raleigh, N.C.; Lincoln's "Emancipation Proclamation" is read again in Warren, Ohio; the National Monument Association lays the cornerstone of the Soldier's Monument in Gettysburg; in Boston, a statue of Horace Mann is "inaugurated"; the Huntsville Advocate (Alabama) prints news about celebrations in Gettysburg and New York; the celebration by the Colored People's Educational Monument Association in memory of Abraham Lincoln occurs in Washington, D.C. and is the first national celebration by African-Americans in the U.S.; in Albany, N.Y., 100 "tattered" Civil War battle flags are presented to the state and Gen. Ulysses S. Grant is in attendance; in Savannah, Ga., Governor James Johnson addresses the citizens there telling them that slavery is dead and that they should renew their allegiance to the Government; at Saratoga Springs, N.Y., J.C. Hamilton, son of Alexander Hamilton, reads the Emancipation Proclamation; Union General William Tecumseh Sherman participates in a 4th of July civic celebration in Louisville, Ky., and witnesses a balloon ascension there; in Hopewell, New Jersey, a monument to the memory of John Hart, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, is dedicated and New Jersey Governor Joel Parker delivers an oration.
This is part one of two. Please see next week's edition for additional dates in our Nation's July 4th history.