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Things you might not know about the Fourth of July
9 things you didn't know about the Fourth of July
by Caroline Simon
Across the country, Americans will don red, white and blue on July 4 to celebrate the nation's independence with barbecues, parades and fireworks.
The holiday commemorates the Founding Fathers' declaration of independence in 1776. The day has had a fascinating history ever since, rife with quirky coincidences and inventive celebrations.
Want to impress your friends and family at this year's Fourth of July gathering? Check out these facts you might not have known about the holiday.
1. Congress didn't actually vote for independence on July 4.
Twelve of thirteen states approved a resolution for independence on July 2, not July 4, when the declaration was actually adopted. New York didn't vote until July 9. Many of the signers didn't attach their names to the document until August 2.
John Adams famously insisted the annual celebration of independence be held July 2, not July 4, and refused to attend any events on the latter day.
2. The Fourth of July didn't become an official holiday until over a century after America declared its independence.
In 1776, John Adams wrote in a letter to his wife, Abigail, that American independence should be celebrated with “pomp and Parade…Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other.”
Though early celebrations began the following year, the Fourth of July wasn't designated a federal holiday until 1870. In 1941, it became a paid holiday for federal employees.
3. During the Revolutionary War, George Washington gave his soldiers a special treat for the holiday.
On July 4, 1778, George Washington ordered a double ration of rum for his soldiers. He also ordered a cannon salute to celebrate the occasion.
Drinking was a large part of historical Fourth of July celebrations — it was traditional to drink 13 toasts, one for each state in the union.
4. In a bizarre coincidence, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams both died on July 4, 1826 — the nation's 50th birthday.
The two founding fathers and political adversaries died within five hours of each other.
As Adams lay on his deathbed, unaware that Jefferson had died earlier that day in Monticello, he reportedly spoke his last words: "Jefferson still survives".
James Monroe was the third president to die on July 4: he passed away in 1831.
5. Calvin Coolidge is the only president to be born on July 4.
Coolidge, the 30th U.S. president, was born on Independence Day in 1872.
Other July 4 birthdays include first daughter Malia Obama, gangster Meyer Lansky, author Nathaniel Hawthorne, and reality TV star Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino.