On July 4 1776, the Continental Congress approved the Declaration of Independence. The declaration announced that the thirteen American colonies no longer considered themselves as part of the British Empire but rather a new nation of independent sovereign states — the United States of America.
This in itself is well-known: however, here are some factoids about the event that are less well-known:
- The term “Declaration of Independence” is not used anywhere in the document.
It’s unclear when or how the document started to be referred to that way.
- Congress had already voted on July 2 to declare independence from Great Britain.
For that reason, John Adams wanted July 2 to be considered Independence Day.
- While 56 people signed the Declaration, John Hancock was the first and – by far – the largest signature.
This is why the phrase “John Hancock” is sometimes used to mean signature.
- At 70 years old, Benjamin Franklin from Pennsylvania was the oldest person to sign.
At 26, Edward Rutledge of South Carolina was the youngest.
- Not surprisingly, two of the signers were future Presidents: John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.
Oddly, both died on July 4, 1826 – the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration.
Americans celebrate our independence with fireworks, parades and – the most American of traditions – backyard barbecues. This gives rise to a few other unusual factoids:
- The beef in our hotdogs, burgers, or steaks likely came from Texas or Nebraska.
An estimated 1/3 of our nation’s beef supply comes from those two states.
- Our pork sausages and ribs probably originated in Iowa.
Iowa is home to ~30% of our nation’s pork supply; twice as much as any other state.
- It’s a safe bet the baked beans we ate came from North Dakota.
As I blogged about in 2008, the state produces more than 40% of U.S. beans.
Happy 4th of July.