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Independence Day

Why Independence Day?

Drawing of a Revolutionary War soldier.

Flags, fireworks, picnics...Independence Day (the 4th of July) is celebrated each year as the birthday of the United States of America.  Do you know why?

It was on July 4, 1776, that the Continental Congress approved a written document we call the Declaration of Independence.  This document declared that the British colonies in North America had the right to be their own nation, no longer under the rule of the King of Great Britain.  This declaration led to war, as many feared it would; yet the Revolutionary War helped to establish the freedoms that we enjoy in this land today.

Approving the Declaration made it official even though it wasn't signed until almost a month later.  Don't forget, this was in the days before computers.  The draft document was too rough and marked with corrections, so Congress had a new copy made.  This copy was to be written in a fancy style and without errors or corrections, on parchment (which lasted longer than other kinds of paper).  Naturally, this took some time.  The official document was actually signed on August 2nd.


4th of July Trivia Quiz

Get to know some of the men who signed the Declaration of Independence with this fund of fascinating facts!

  1. Which signer of the Declaration of Independence became the ancestor of two presidents of the United States?
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    • Benjamin Harrison (representing Virginia) was the father of the 9th president, William Henry Harrison; his great-grandson was the 23rd president, also named Benjamin Harrison.  (Samuel Adams, by the way, was a cousin of John Adams.)
  2. Which signer of the Declaration of Independence also invented bifocals (glasses with each lens having two different levels of magnification)?
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    • Benjamin Franklin, representative from Pennsylvania.  Franklin is also the only man to sign five major documents:  the Declaration, the Constitution, two treaties with France, and the treaty with Great Britain that ended the Revolutionary War.
  3. Which signer of the Declaration of Independence later became Treasurer of the United States Mint?
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    • Famous doctor Benjamin Rush, representing Pennsylvania.
  4. Which signer of the Declaration of Independence served time in debtor's prison while also serving as a justice of the Supreme Court?
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    • James Wilson of Pennsylvania.  Debtor's prisons held people who owed debts to other people and existed until the mid-1800s.
  5. Who was the first to sign the Declaration of Independence?
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    • John Hancock, representing Massachusetts, signed first because he was president of the Continental Congress, the group that issued the Declaration.
  6. What famous land purchase was announced on the 4th of July?
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    • The Louisiana Purchase was announced on July 4, 1803.
  7. Which president was born on the 4th of July?
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    • Calvin Coolidge (1872).  Needless to say, he did not sign the Declaration of Independence.
  8. Which of these coins shows the building where the Declaration of Independence was created?
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    • The buildings shown are Independence Hall in Philadelphia, where the Declaration was signed (on the back of the bicentennial half dollar), the Maryland State House (back of Maryland quarter), and the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC (back of penny).
  9. Which of these coins shows a man who signed the Declaration of Independence?
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    • The men shown are John Muir (naturalist), a Massachusetts minuteman (non-military soldier), and Caesar Rodney (Continental Congress delegate from Delaware who signed the Declaration).

Adams, Jefferson, or Both?

Graphic shows Adams and Jefferson.

Click the title above to open another window for the Flash part of the trivia quiz.


Independence Links

In this drawing, Peter is wearing clothes from the Revolutionary War era.

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