10 Amazing Things You Wouldn’t Believe About American History!The Fourth of July marks the anniversary of the official Independence of the U.S. and for many the peak of the summer season. I bet you’ve got your grilling plans down pat and your playlist sorted for the pool party, but just how much do you actually know about the history of this important day and the country it belongs to? Here are 10 incredible things about the history of Independence Day and the United States of America that you probably knew nothing about.
1. America's 30th president, Calvin Coolidge was actually born on July 4, 1872.
According to popular American historian and author Kenneth C. Davis, the real day of independence is July 2nd. It is however, celebrated on the fourth because that is when congress officially accepted Jefferson's declaration. This declaration, known as The Declaration of Independence, was written by Thomas Jefferson on a writing desk that could fit on his lap, which was, at the time, referred to as a “laptop”.
The original document that he wrote was not the one eventually signed. His original draft was lost and a copy then was made. A total of 200 copies were made at the time but only 27 of them are accounted for today. Ironically, two signatories of the declaration died on July 4, 1826; John Adams, and the drafter himself, Thomas Jefferson.
2. Delaware’s founding father had no face.
There were thirteen British colonies on the North American East coast. They included the New England Colonies: Connecticut, Rhode Island & the Providence Plantations, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire; the Middle Colonies: Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York; and the Southern Colonies: Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. The American Revolutionary War took off when the Southern Colonies bonded together to protest against taxes the British government demanded be paid to them. This fight pinned loyalists (those loyal to the British crown) against Patriots (those in favor of independence from British rule).
The founding father of Delaware, Caesar Rodney, suffered from a severe form of face cancer, which led to crippling disfigurement. To this day, historians still do not know exactly for certain what he looked like, and neither did people in his time, as he always kept his face hidden by a green cloth and did not want to have his portrait painted. It did not stop him though from riding on horseback all those 80 miles to sign the Declaration of Independence in 1776.
3. There is more than one original copy of the Declaration.
The Declaration of Independence was officially adopted, although it was formally signed by all members nearly a month later. After Congress officially adopted the text, the “Committee of Five” was established. This special committee consisting of Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman and Robert R. Livingston, were tasked with overseeing the reproduction of the approved document. These copies were printed by a man named John Dunlap at his print shop in Philadelphia. On the 5th, they were dispatched to all 13 colonies for local newspapers, local officials and commanders of Continental troops. Although it is believed hundreds of copies were printed, only 26 survived to this day.
Despite the fact that the Declaration spelled the independence of the United States from British colonial rule, eight of the 56 signatories of the Declaration were born in Britain. One of the men, Richard Stockton, a lawyer from the city of Princeton in New Jersey, later recanted his signature. After being jailed by the British in November of 1776, he felt forced to take it back and swear his allegiance to King George III of England. Once he regained his freedom though, he took a new oath of loyalty to the state of New Jersey in December of the following year.
4. For the 4th of July, Americans light up about 175 million pounds of fireworks equivalent to around 100,000 lightning bolts!
It just wouldn’t be the Fourth of July without fireworks, now would it? One of the greatest and most extravagant Independence Day displays takes place in Boston where more than 5,000 pounds of explosive material costing over $2.5 million is lit to decorate the night sky. That is equal to the amount of energy the average person’s heart will produce and expand in a lifetime! The largest officially however, is the Macy’s “Light Up the Night” show in the city of New York. The show, cast over the Hudson River includes more than 40,000 shells and is watched by over 3 million people.
Fireworks are said to have first originated in China somewhere around AD700, although there is evidence to support the theory that firecrackers date even further back to around 200BC. They reached Western countries when explorer Marco Polo brought them over in 1292. Still to this day though, China dominates the industry as about 90% of all the world’s fireworks are produced in China.
5. The U.S. bought Alaska from Russia for $7.2 million.
Alaska is the American state closest to Russia, and even used to be a part of it! In 1867 the US Secretary of State, William H. Seward, paid Russia $7,200,000, (which accounted for ¢2 per acre) to buy Alaska. It officially became property of the United States on October 18, 1867 and became a state many years later in 1959. At the time of the purchase, people though Seward was crazy and referred to the purchase as his “folly”.
Alaska has proved, however to be a very valuable purchase for the United States as it is rich in oil and natural gas. A full 25% of all the oil produced in the US comes from the state. It is also the largest in terms of size and is home to both the highest point in North America (Mount Denali) and the lowest trench on the continent (the Aleutian trench). Alaska is today known as “The Last Frontier”.
6. 1 in 161 Americans is named Patrick.
Sorry Patrick Murphy, you are far from being the only one out there! The most common Irish last name is Murphy and it is estimated that 1 in 161 Americans are named Patrick. This amounts to almost 2 million people, which is more than the whole population of Ireland’s capital city, Dublin.
In fact, the United States boats more Irish than Ireland itself! More than 34 million Americans claim Irish ancestry. Boston, Massachusetts has one of the highest percentages of Irish roots, with over a quarter of people in the city having Irish heritage. This isn’t just a modern phenomenon too, as over 190,000 Irish-born Americans fought in the American Civil War and nine of the signatories of the Declaration of Independence were Irish.
7. In 1776 only 2.5 million people lived in the U.S. compared to almost 319 million today.
There are 8,491,079 people living in New York City as of 2014. Sounds like a lot for a single city right? Shockingly enough though, ancient Rome was around 8 times more densely populated than modern NYC! These millions speak more than 800 languages total, making the city of New York the most linguistically diverse one in the world. NYC is known as a melting pot of nationalities, heritages and cultures. As many as 37% of New Yorkers were born in other countries. Lead only by Poland’s capital city of Warsaw, the world’s largest Polish population is located in New York.
Not only Polish, but NYC is also home to the largest Chinese population outside of China and the largest Puerto Rican population of any city in the world, including those actually in Puerto Rico! Over 47% of the population in New York City over the age of 5 speaks another language other than English at home.
8. The Statue of Liberty was not always green, she used to be a reddish-brown color.
The Statue of Liberty was a gift to the United States from France that was given in the 1800s. The statue, by French sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, was actually not originally intended for New York, but rather Egypt. Every part of the design is significant of something. The seven spikes on the crown for example, represent the seven oceans and 7 continents and are meant to signify the universal concept of liberty.
Today the neoclassical colossal statue is one of New York City’s most popular tourist attractions, with over 3.2 million people visiting the Statue of Liberty anually. Nicknamed ‘Lady Liberty’ or ‘The Mother of Exiles’, the statue’s full official naanme is “Liberty Enlightening the World”.
9. The tune to the Star Spangled Banner was originally an old English drinking song.
Not only was the tune to the Star Spangled Banner originally the tune to an old English drinking song, but later an American one too. It was first a drinking tune entitled “To Anacreon in Heaven” and was the official number of a London men’s club of the 18th century known as the Anacreontic Society. Later, it was borrowed in 1800 by John Adams and re-entitled “Adams and Liberty: as part of his reelection propaganda.
The United States is no stranger to alcohol. It is estimated that the top 10% of alcohol consumers in the U.S. drinks about 10 alcoholic beverages daily. America’s most original style of music, country, has a long and close relationship to drinking. According to odds, 1 in 5 country music songs refers to alcohol. In that case, turning a drinking song into the national anthem, seems rather fitting.
10. In 2014, New Yorkers spent about 74 hours of their lives in traffic jams.
Ever wonder where the city of New York got its name from? In 1664, the city of New Amsterdam was gifted to the Duke of York as an 18th birthday present by his father. The young Duke renamed the city, New York. A few years later, in 1789, New York became the first capital city of the United States, however, for just one year. New York City is home to a massive amount of millionaires, so much so, that 1 in every 21 New Yorkers is one. That comes in handy for many when you consider that in just 5 years between 2009 and 2014, the cost of living in NYC rose by 23% and continues to rise. The average cost of rent in a New York City one-bedroom apartment is $3,400.
A large number of people in the city are homeless, however the government of NYC is attempting to significantly lessen this number. In 2009, then-mayor Michael Bloomberg set up a program where the city of New York would buy a one-way plane ticket for any homeless person or family with a guaranteed place to stay elsewhere. Since 2007, more than 550 families have taken him up on his offer and left the city.