California Travel Tips

Independence Day and 4th of July, What’s It All About?

Published on: July 03, 2012

Photo: Mark Barbour, Executive Director of International Printing Museum (  in Carson, Calif., prints the Declaration of the Independence on an original 1806 Ramage Letterpress, one of only three in the U.S. It is similar to the press used to print the Declaration of Independence.

In case you haven’t noticed, people get a little crazy when talking about independence. It is a recurring theme throughout global history and the U.S. Here are a few key “Independence” moments in the United States of America:


  • Independence Day celebrates the Declaration of Independence!  In 1776, John Dunlap secured a lucrative printing contract for the Continental Congress. Fighting between the American colonists and the British forces had been going on for nearly a year. On July 2, the Second Continental Congress voted to secede. Two days later on July 4, 1776  they approved the final wording of a public declaration regarding their decision, which we today call the Declaration of Independence. That evening John Hancock ordered Dunlap to print broadside copies of the declaration on his wooden letterpress. Dunlap may have printed 200 broadsides, since known as the Dunlap broadsides, which were the first published versions of the Declaration.
  • U.S. soldiers at Baltimore’s Fort McHenry raised a huge American flag on September 14, 1814, to celebrate a crucial victory over British forces during the War of 1812. The sight of those “broad stripes and bright stars” inspired Francis Scott Key to write a song that eventually became the United States national anthem. “Oh say can you see..”
  • The American Flag was adopted on June 17, 1777. It still contains 13 stripes for the original 13 colonies, and now has 50 stars representing 50 U.S. states, versus the original 13 stars for the colonies.
  • The majority of flags flown in the U.S. today are made in China. A few U.S. flag makers remain, however.
  • Fireworks were around long before they were used to celebrate the Declaration of Independence. The U.S. purchases most of its fireworks from China.
  • Independence Day was declared a national paid holiday in 1938.
  • In California there are more picnics and fireworks displays on July 4 than any other day of the year.
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