H/T Mental Floss.
I learned some thing new reading this story.
As one of the country’s first female publishers, Mary Katharine Goddard played a significant yet overlooked role in the American Revolution. She printed a Baltimore-based newspaper that ran articles about various Revolutionary War battles, and continued to print the paper even after her offices were raided. As the first female postmaster in the colonies, she also ran the Baltimore Post Office and undoubtedly facilitated some important correspondence in her day.
However, her biggest assignment came in January 1777, when Congress asked her to print copies of the Declaration of Independence and deliver them to the 13 colonies. Her next step was a bold one. At the bottom of each page, she added her own name into the mix. “Baltimore, in Maryland: Printed by Mary Katharine Goddard,” the text reads. (Though her name was printed as Mary Katharine, she is often referred to as Mary Katherine in various texts.)
This copy of the Declaration was the first to include the full list of founders’ signatures. The only two names that appeared on previously printed copies were Continental Congress president John Hancock and secretary Charles Thomson. At the time, of course, signing a document that declared independence from Britain was akin to treason—and being a woman didn’t help matters, either.
This wasn’t the first time Goddard had published her name, though. Two years earlier, she had begun printing her name at the bottom of a newspaper called The Maryland Journal and the Baltimore Advertiser after her brother and business partner, William, left town to pursue other interests, according to the New York Public Library. Instead of including her full name, though, she had opted for “Published by M.K. Goddard.”
It’s unclear what prompted Goddard to print her full name at the bottom of the Declaration of Independence, but historians can venture a guess. “Perhaps Goddard was trying to secure her place in the story of the nation’s founding. We can only speculate,” writes the library, which owns two copies of the document, dubbed the Goddard Broadside.
Unfortunately for Goddard, her powerful position in the printing industry was short-lived. Her brother returned to Baltimore in 1784 and took over the newspaper once again, and her name was removed. She continued to serve as the postmaster for another five years until the new Postmaster General, Samuel Osgood, pushed her out of the job in 1789, arguing that women didn’t have the stamina for it. More than 200 people in Baltimore signed a petition demanding her reinstatement, but it was an unsuccessful bid.
Instead, Goddard ran a bookstore until her death in 1816. But she got the last laugh: Her name can still be seen on one of the nation’s most important historical documents.
I am always have been a Patriot.
A look at the Founding Fathers.
Without them, there would have been no United States of America. The Founding Fathers, a group of predominantly wealthy plantation owners and businessmen, united 13 disparate colonies, fought for independence from Britain and penned a series of influential governing documents that steer the country to this day.
All the Founding Fathers, including the first four U.S. presidents, at one point considered themselves British subjects. But they revolted against the restrictive rule of King George III—outlining their grievances in the Declaration of Independence, a powerful (albeit incomplete) call for freedom and equality—and won a stunning military victory over what was then the world’s preeminent superpower.
The Founders proved equally adept later on in peacetime. When the federal government tottered under the Articles of Confederation, prominent citizens met anew to hammer out the U.S. Constitution, overcoming major areas of disagreement between large and small states and Southern and Northern ones to form a stable political system. Showing foresight, they included a Bill of Rights, which enshrined many civil liberties into law and provided a blueprint for other emerging democracies.
There’s no official consensus on who should be considered a Founding Father, and some historians object to the term altogether. On the whole, though, it’s applied to those leaders who initiated the Revolutionary War and framed the Constitution. Here are eight of the most influential characters in America’s origin story:
Before he fought against the British, George Washington fought for the British, serving as a commander in the French and Indian War. A prosperous Virginia farmer who owned hundreds of slaves, he came to resent the various taxes and restrictions being imposed on the colonies by the British crown.
Once the Revolutionary War broke out in 1775, he was placed in charge of the Continental Army and quickly suffered a near-disastrous defeat at the Battle of Brooklyn. More defeats followed—all in all, Washington lost more battles than he won. Nonetheless, he kept his ragtag troops together even through a freezing winter at Valley Forge and, with the help of his French allies, was able to expel the British by 1783.
Washington then returned to Virginia intent on resuming his career as a farmer. But he was persuaded to re-enter politics as head of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, believing that a stronger federal government was needed to preserve the nation. In 1789, Washington was overwhelmingly elected the first president of the United States. He is aptly known as the “Father of His Country.”
A poor, illegitimate orphan, Alexander Hamilton emigrated as a teenager from the British West Indies to New York. Rising to prominence as an aide-de-camp to Washington during the Revolutionary War, he became an impassioned supporter of a strong central government.
After attending the Constitutional Convention in 1787, he wrote the majority of the highly persuasive Federalist Papers, which argued for the Constitution’s ratification. Washington then tapped him to serve as the first U.S. treasury secretary, a position he used to push for the creation of a national bank. Later immortalized on the $10 bill, Hamilton was killed in an 1804 duel with his bitter rival Aaron Burr, the sitting vice president.
Early America’s foremost Renaissance man, Benjamin Franklin was a skilled author, printer, scientist, inventor and diplomat despite a formal education that ended at age 10. When not designing bifocals, harnessing electricity, playing music or publishing Poor Richard’s Almanack, he worked constantly on civic projects to improve his adopted city of Philadelphia.
In the beginning stages of the American Revolution, Franklin was appointed to the five-member committee that drafted the Declaration of Independence. He then traveled to France, where he secured French assistance for the war effort and helped negotiate the 1783 Treaty of Paris, the official end to the conflict. Just prior to his death, Franklin served as a sort of elder statesman at the Constitutional Convention.
A distinguished Massachusetts lawyer, John Adams became a relatively early proponent of the revolutionary cause. Just like Franklin, he served on the committee that wrote the Declaration of Independence, journeyed overseas to secure French military aid and helped negotiate the Treaty of Paris. He chaired other key committees as well and even found time to draft the Massachusetts Constitution (which is still in use).
After about 10 years of diplomatic service abroad, Adams returned home in 1788 and subsequently became vice president under Washington. Following Washington’s two terms, he was then elected president, serving from 1797 to 1801. In a striking coincidence, Adams and his friend-turned-rival-turned-friend Thomas Jefferson both died on the same day, July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.
The second cousin of John Adams, Samuel Adams was a political firebrand who drummed up immense opposition to British policies in Boston, a hotbed of the resistance. Believing that the colonists were subject to “taxation without representation,” he joined the Sons of Liberty, an underground dissident group that at times resorted to tarring and feathering British loyalists.
Adams likely planned the 1773 Boston Tea Party, and in 1775 his attempted arrest helped spark the Battles of Lexington and Concord, the first skirmish of the Revolutionary War. Unlike many of the Founders, Adams was staunchly anti-slavery. He signed the Declaration of Independence and went on to serve as governor of Massachusetts.
Well educated and prosperous, Thomas Jefferson was a Virginia lawyer and politician who came to believe the British Parliament held no authority over the 13 colonies. In 1776, he was given the immense task of writing the Declaration of Independence, in which he famously declared that “all men are created equal” and “that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights,” such as “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” (A lifelong slaveholder, he did not extend these concepts to African-Americans.)
As secretary of state under Washington, Jefferson clashed constantly with Hamilton over foreign policy and the role of government. He later served as vice president to John Adams prior to becoming president, himself, in 1801.
A close friend of Jefferson’s, James Madison likewise grew up on a Virginia plantation and served in the state legislature. At the 1787 Constitutional Convention, he proved to be perhaps the most influential delegate, developing a plan to divide the federal government into three branches—legislative, executive and judicial—each with checks on its power. This plan, which was largely adopted, earned him the moniker “Father of the Constitution.”
Madison next co-authored the Federalist Papers and, as a U.S. congressman, became the driving force behind the Bill of Rights. He was elected president in 1808 after serving as Jefferson’s secretary of state.
Not nearly as recognized as his major Founder cohorts, John Jay nonetheless played a pivotal role in the creation of the United States. A lawyer, he originally preferred reconciling with Britain rather than fighting for independence. Once war broke out, however, he wholeheartedly joined the side of the colonists, serving, among other roles, as a diplomat to Spain and linking up with Franklin and Adams to negotiate the Treaty of Paris.
Upon returning to the United States, Jay served as secretary of foreign affairs under the Articles of Confederation and authored a few of the Federalist Papers. In 1789, he became the first chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, and six years later he was elected governor of New York.
Many other figures have also been cited as Founding Fathers (or Mothers). These include John Hancock, best known for his flashy signature on the Declaration of Independence; Gouverneur Morris, who wrote much of the Constitution; Thomas Paine, the British-born author of Common Sense; Paul Revere, a Boston silversmith whose “midnight ride” warned of approaching redcoats; George Mason, who helped craft the Constitution but ultimately refused to sign it; Charles Carroll, the lone Catholic to sign the Declaration of Independence; Patrick Henry, who famously declared “Give me liberty, or give me death!”; John Marshall, a Revolutionary War veteran and longtime chief justice of the Supreme Court; and Abigail Adams, who implored her husband, John, to “remember the ladies” while shaping the new country.
H/T Yahoo News.
It is frightening how little people know about our Founding Fathers and history in general.
Was the Constitution really written on hemp paper and where did Thomas Jefferson sign it? In honor of National History Day, Constitution Daily clears up some pesky myths from the Founding Fathers’ time.
National History Day is a contest involving more than 500,000 students across the country. The Philadelphia version concludes today, and there is a lot of talk in our building about what is history and what are some common myths.
For example, did you know there were 12 colonies, and not 13 colonies? Technically, Delaware was considered a lower section of the colony of Pennsylvania until it left to become an independent state in 1776.
But let’s get back to the first two stories above, and start busting some Founding Fathers myths.
First, the Constitution wasn’t written on hemp paper. And neither was the Declaration of Independence. The two great documents were written on parchment. The point of debate is that some working drafts of the documents might have been composed on paper made from hemp, which was widely used in that time period.
Second, Thomas Jefferson didn’t sign the Constitution. This is the most –popular myth at the National Constitution Center, especially when guests enter our hall of statutes of the Constitution’s signers – and ask where the Jefferson statue is. In 1787, Jefferson was in Paris as the United States’ envoy, and he missed the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia.
Third, Paul Revere probably didn’t say, “The British are coming” to warn the Patriots outside Boston. There is a lot about the Paul Revere myth that doesn’t ring true. For starters, Revere was on a secret mission to warn the Patriots about the advance of British forces, and at the time, the colonists were British. His more likely response was, “The regulars are coming out.” And Revere didn’t ride alone. There were multiple riders as part of the intelligence effort set up by the Patriots. In fact, Revere never reached Concord as part of the ride. He was detained by the British after leaving Lexington. It was another rider who rode from Lexington to Concord.
Fourth, the Fourth of July is the day the Founders signed the Declaration of Independence. On July 2, 1776, the Continental Congress agreed to break away from the British. On July 4, the Congress formally adopted the Declaration of Independence. On July 8, 1776 Colonel John Nixon of Philadelphia read a printed Declaration of Independence to the public for the first time on what is now called Independence Square. But the Declaration wasn’t signed by most of the delegates until August 2, 1776.
Fifth, The Founders wanted the turkey as our national symbol, and not the eagle. While turkeys clearly had one fan among the Founders, Benjamin Franklin, it appears that the birds weren’t close to challenging the eagle as the nation’s proud patriotic symbol. The real debate over the Great Seal started in 1776 and it lasted six years. Franklin’s idea was a design that featured a Biblical scene featuring Moses and Pharaoh. Jefferson wanted a scene depicting the children of Israel and two Anglo-Saxon mythical figures, and John Adams wanted another mythical figure: Hercules. Eventually, the eagle won out as the national symbol.
Sixth, George Washington had wooden teeth. Research performed on a set of Washington’s dentures in 2005 showed they were made of gold, ivory, lead, and human and animal teeth.
Seventh, the Liberty Bell rang after the Declaration of Independence was signed on the Fourth of July in 1776. Historians doubt this, since the steeple that housed the bell was rotted at the time. The myth was the result of a fictional story written years later in a children’s’ book.
Eighth, here is the deal with Delaware: Until 1776, Delaware was legally part of Pennsylvania and it was called the lower counties of the colony of Pennsylvania. It had its own legislature but the same colonial governor oversaw Pennsylvania and the Delaware region.
On June 14, 1776, the Colonial Assembly declared the region as separate and independent from Great Britain, and it became the first state – less than a month before the Continental Congress approved the Declaration of Independence.
Something to ponder.
There’s no doubt the Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence in July 1776. But which date has the legitimate claim on Independence Day: July 2 or July 4?
H/T Mental Floss.
When John Adams penned a letter to future First Lady Abigail Adams on July 3, 1776, he guessed how future generations of Americans would celebrate Independence Day with remarkable accuracy: “solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.”
The only problem? Adams predicted the wrong date. He wrote to Abigail that “the second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America.”
The future president’s plans for big Second of July bashes sank into obscurity, but Adams might have been onto something—when Americans party like it’s 1776 on the Fourth, we’re actually celebrating independence two days late. Or maybe even a month too early, as the first signature on the Declaration of Independence didn’t occur until August 2. (Thomas McKean, a delegate who at one point served as the President of the Continental Congress, is thought to be the last, signing the document as late as 1781.)
Adams wrote his letter on July 3, 1776, the day after the Continental Congress voted to declare independence from Great Britain. But the Continental Congress labored over revisions to Thomas Jefferson’s first draft of the Declaration until the document was edited, approved, and ratified by the Continental Congress on the Fourth. On the Second, only the first paragraph was ready for print.
Congress issued the initial printing of the Declaration on the night of July 4, 1776, printed on about 200 broadsides. John Dunlap, an Irish immigrant, spent much of that night setting the type, correcting it, and printing the sheets. “We were all in haste,” Adams said about the printing—punctuation varied from broadside to broadside, and some copies were folded before the ink dried properly.
The broadsides, dated July 4, 1776, were distributed to the soon-to-be states over the course of the two following days, widely publicizing the Fourth as the day the United States claimed independence. George Washington was one of the first to celebrate the Fourth in 1778, ordering an artillery salute from his soldiers and issuing his troops a double ration of rum (though probably not in that order).
It wasn’t until 1870 that Congress declared the Fourth of July an unpaid holiday for federal employees. As Congress often does, they changed their mind in 1938, switching the Fourth to a paid federal holiday. As for Adams, he wouldn’t live to see the Fourth as an official holiday: He died on July 4, 1826, two days after he thought (and hoped) Americans would ring in independence celebrations.
A brief history of pockets.
Last month we did an article about your great-grandpa’s daypacks — the small bags that soldiers and outdoorsmen of yore used to carry essential supplies for fighting, hunting, and exploring. Part of the rationale men gave for using these bags was that it wasn’t possible or desirable to carry everything in their pockets — small items were hard to dig out and heavy items weighed down their clothing.
That article got me wondering: when and why did men give up carrying bags in favor of toting everything around in their pockets? Small bags today, at least in North America, are usually derided as “murses.” And we’ve developed a special affinity for pockets — we like to share what we carry in ours, and you can even tell a man’s life story by surveying how the contents of his pockets change from decade to decade.
Today we’ll take a fascinating tour through the history of men’s pockets, talk about some of the most noteworthy kinds, and discuss how the pocket has earned a special place in the masculine heart.
From Tied-On Bags to Sewn-In Pouches: A Brief History of the Rise of Men’s Pockets
The word pocket is derived from the Old Northern French word “poque,” which meant bag. And up through the 19th century, if you looked up “pocket” in a dictionary, you would see it defined as “a small pouch or bag attached to or inserted in a garment.”
This is because the original pockets weren’t like the sewn-in pockets we know today, but rather separate bags detached from clothing. From the 15th until the mid-16th century, men and women carried essential items and currency in a pouch that was typically tied around the waist or hung from a belt. As thieves and “cutpurses” became more of a problem in the 17th century, people began to cut slits in their shirts, skirts, and pants, and tuck their pouches inside their clothing for safekeeping. This practice necessitated making the bags flatter and easier to reach into, so they would be more accessible and not create a significant bulge.
The names of the various things men carried in these tucked-away pouches were hyphenated with “pocket” to create a moniker that described their small size and portable nature. For example:
- Pocket-brandy (flask)
- Pocket-pistol (Often a single-shot derringer-type gun. Also used to mean flask.)
- Pocket-book (While today “pocketbooks” mean lady’s handbags, a man’s pocket-book at this time was a small leather notebook-like case used for carrying papers, diary entries, notes, etc.)
As men’s garments became more form-fitting, it became harder to fit a pocket purse between clothing and body. The next obvious step then was to attach the pouches to the clothing itself, and tailors began to sew pocket bags into the seams of men’s breeches, and then into their coats. In the 18th century, pockets were added to vests, and in the 1900s, many kinds of men’s garments began to include a wide range of pockets: inside/outside breast pocket, watch pocket, side/hip pants pocket, ticket pocket, etc.
For their part, women continued to carry pouches under their billowing dresses through the late 1800s. Accessed through a placket hole in the back of the skirt, these sort of internal, reverse fanny packs proved popular with pickpockets, and it became common for women to carry a small drawstring reticule in their hand instead. Attached pockets made their way into some women’s garments, but never quite took off as they did for men, as the more fitted fashions of the 20th century precluded their possibility — lest they ruin the line of the clothes. Women thus largely returned to using outside pockets – i.e., purses and handbags — while men embraced the use of inside, attached pockets. Thus the modern association of bags-and-women, pockets-and-men.
Adding Functionality to Style: 3 Classic Suit Pockets
Early pocket options on pants were fairly limited and straightforward: they were created in the waistband, straight across the top, or on the sides. The jacket was where more experimentation took place, and the choice of pockets indicated its level of formality; the general rule was (and is), that the more external layers of fabric — i.e. more pockets — the less sleek and sharp the garment, and the less formal it is.
There are 3 classic suit pockets that were popular in yesteryear, and continue to adorn suits today:
Jetted Pockets. The first jacket pockets were sewn inside the lining or seams of garments, and are called “jetted” pockets. In their simplest form, they consist of little more than a slit; if you look at the left breast of your suit jacket, you’ll likely see an example. Jetted pockets can also have flaps, and this is what you’ll probably see on the bottom hip pockets of your jacket. These flaps came into vogue at the beginning of the 20th century and were originally designed to protect the contents of the inner pouch from falling out and from getting wet with rain. When you went inside, and the flap was no longer in use, you tucked it into your pocket; this tradition is of course no longer practiced, and the flap is kept perennially outside the jacket. Suits that are the most formal, especially tuxedos, do away with flap pockets altogether to give the piece a more streamlined look.
Ticket Pockets. Another popular inside jacket pocket was the ticket pocket. Sitting above the right hip pocket, and about half the size, its purpose is easily guessed: it held a gentleman’s train ticket when he traveled by rail. In the 20th century it became known as a change or cash pocket, and it communicated that your suit had been custom tailored. Still today, few off-the-rack suits come with a ticket pocket, and they often must be specially ordered.
Patch Pockets. When gents of the 19th century desired additional pockets for storing their odds and ends while out in the countryside, tailors began adding patch pockets to their sport coats. A patch pocket consists of a piece of fabric sewn to the outside of a garment, forming one side of the pocket, with the other side formed by the material of the garment itself.
Patch pockets can have pleats that expand their capacity and flaps to protect their contents. The sporting men of yesteryear used them for storing provisions, cartridges, and various other supplies when hunting, shooting, riding horses, cycling, and playing golf and polo. Patch pockets were also adopted by that other quintessentially Victorian English type: the explorer. Safari jackets were outfitted with numerous pockets for storing one’s gun cartridges, field glasses, pipe, matches, notebook, etc.
Because they added an extra layer of fabric to a garment, patch pockets were considered the least formal kind of pocket, and still today are generally considered only appropriate for sport coats, rather than blazers or suit jackets. (What to know more about the differences between these three jackets? Click here.)
The Utilitarian: The Cargo Pocket
Patch pockets, with their rugged functionality, were unsurprisingly adopted by the military for both shirts and jackets. But it wasn’t until the 20th century that the pocket would migrate south, attaching itself to men’s pants, expanding in size, and becoming known as the famous cargo pocket.
The British were the first to introduce the pants cargo pocket. In 1938, they adopted a revolutionarily functional and practical combat uniform dubbed “Battledress.” Battledress trousers came with a large map pocket positioned in the front by the left knee, and a right upper hip pocket that held a field dressing for first aid.
The cargo pocket was introduced to the States by Major William P. Yarborough, a commander in the 82nd Airborne Division. Dissatisfied with the current paratrooper jump suit — which consisted of a one-piece coverall worn over a regular infantry dress — Yarborough set out to create a uniform that would be more functional for their unique mission and distinguish the airborne forces from other soldiers. Yarborough developed special jump boots, as well as a fatigue uniform that included extra large pockets on both top and bottom — 4 on the jacket, 2 on the pants.
The breast pockets were slanted down and towards the center to give the paratrooper easier access when he was wearing his parachute harness, and the cargo thigh pockets expanded to hold ample supplies. The jacket’s collar also included a unique hidden dual-zippered knife pocket, which held a 3-inch switchblade. Should the jumper become caught in a tree, the knife could be used to cut himself free of parachute lines and the harness itself, though he was trained to employ it as a weapon as well. Some paratroopers also used the knife to cut a section from the parachute’s fabric, to be turned into a souvenir scarf commemorating the mission.
A paratrooper already shouldered 100lbs of equipment, and the jump suit’s pockets were handy for holding all the things that couldn’t be fit into the other bags and belts he had strapped to him. Pockets were often stuffed with socks, rations, and grenades, and the average paratrooper carried about 9lbs of gear in them.
Paratroopers’ pockets were in fact so heavy laden, that when they jumped on D-Day, the shock of the chute opening ripped the seams of the pockets open, spilling their contents all over Normandy. The paratroopers reinforced the seams with patches on subsequent jumps.
The Army, seeing the utility of the paratrooper jump suit, issued a new uniform in 1943 for the rest of its troops that included trousers with two large cargo pockets worn on the side. These cargo pockets were discontinued a few years later, and replaced with front patch pockets. They wouldn’t be re-introduced until the 1960s, when none other than William Yarborough (now a lieutenant general), redesigned the military’s jungle fatigues for combat in Vietnam.
Drawing inspiration from the old paratrooper uniforms, he created a jacket with 4 large pockets, and trousers with 7, including two side cargo pockets. There was even a pocket within the left cargo pocket — though what it was supposed to be used for remained a mystery to the men. It was intended for a survival kit that was never issued; soldiers instead used it for cigarettes and small mementos.
In the modern day, cargo pockets have of course found their way into civilian dress — becoming a ubiquitous part of men’s shorts and pants. But given the rule of thumb mentioned above — the more pockets a garment has, the less sleek/formal it is — it’s inadvisable to don cargo pants and shorts in situations where you want to appear more sharp and stylish. Pockets add bulk to a garment, even when they aren’t filled, and appear quite bulky and misshapen once packed with odds and ends. Cargo shorts and pants are thus best worn as intended — as functional attire for tactical, outdoor, and sporting pursuits.
Bags Vs. Pockets in the Modern Day
Given the rich history of the humble pocket, it’s not surprising we’ve become so attached to their attachment. Men’s pockets have for centuries held the components of millions of adventures and memorable moments: the handkerchief offered to a sad, but darn cute lady; the money used to buy a favorite book; the ticket for a cross-country adventure; the knife that saved a life.
Pockets represent the ultimate in functionality and minimalism. What you need is right at hand. And if you can’t fit it into your pockets, you have to do without it. (And if it turns out you needed that something after all, well, now you just get to practice the manly art of improvisation!)
This lack of fussiness likely has much to do with the persistence of pockets’ popularity amongst men, and the fact that, at least in America, the externally carried bag has yet to make a comeback.
Ridicule around “murses” is a bit much though, in my opinion. We’re in a cultural place where a man can carry a medium to large bag, or whatever fits in his pockets, but nothing in-between. Which is a little odd when you think about it. Yet I think I do understand the philosophy behind this mentality. You either travel super light and nimbly, or you’re full-on prepared, with the kind of gear and essentials you’ll need a full-sized daypack to carry. I don’t know if this mindset is completely rational, but it makes its own kind of manly sense.
With that in mind, next month we’ll be running a post on what you might consider carrying from day to day (the art of EDC!), and later in the year we’ll devote primers to some of mankind’s favorite carryalls, such as the messenger, the briefcase, and the satchel.
H/T Mental Floss.
A little Fourth Of July trivia.
Of course we know that July 4 is Independence Day in the U.S. But lots of other things have happened on that date as well. Here are just a few of them.
1. THREE FORMER PRESIDENTS DIED.
On July 4, 1826, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson—America’s second and third presidents, respectively—both passed away. The two politicians had a love-hate relationship, and Adams’s last words were supposedly, “Thomas Jefferson survives.” (He didn’t know that Jefferson had passed away a few hours earlier.) Exactly five years later, on July 4, 1831, James Monroe, the fifth U.S. president, died in New York City.
2. HENRY DAVID THOREAU MOVED TO WALDEN POND.
On July 4, 1845, Henry David Thoreau began his two-year living experiment at Walden Pond, near Concord, Massachusetts.
3. ALICE LIDDELL FIRST HEARD THE STORY OF ALICE IN WONDERLAND.
On July 4, 1862, little Alice Liddell listened to a story told by Lewis Carroll during a boat trip on the Thames—it would later become, of course, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. It was published exactly three years later, on July 4, 1865.
4. TWO FAMOUS ADVICE COLUMNISTS WERE BORN.
On July 4, 1918, twin sisters Esther Pauline and Pauline Esther Friedman were born. Today they’re better known as Ann Landers and Dear Abby.
5. GEORGE STEINBRENNER CAME INTO THE WORLD.
On July 4, 1930, future Yankees owner George Steinbrenner was born (and presumably fired the doctor immediately).
6. LOU GEHRIG DELIVERED HIS RETIREMENT SPEECH.
On July 4, 1939, Lou Gehrig gave his famous retirement speech at Yankee Stadium after being diagnosed with ALS. He tells the crowd that he considers himself “the luckiest man on the face of the earth.”
7. KOKO WAS BORN.
On July 4, 1971, Koko, the sign-language gorilla, was born.
8. BOB ROSS PASSED AWAY.
On July 4, 1995, Bob Ross died, and all over the world, Happy Little Trees were a little less happy.
Something to ponder.
There’s no doubt the Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence in July 1776. But which date has the legitimate claim on Independence Day: July 2 or July 4?
If John Adams were alive today, he would tell you July 2. Other Founders would say July 4, the day that is currently recognized as a federal holiday by our national government. And still, other Founders would say, “what Independence Day?” since the holiday wasn’t widely celebrated until many of the Founders had passed away.
Here is the evidence, so you can decide which Independence Day is the real Independence Day!
Officially, the Continental Congress declared its freedom from Great Britain on July 2, 1776, when it voted to approve a resolution submitted by delegate Richard Henry Lee of Virginia, declaring “That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.”
John Adams thought July 2 would be marked as a national holiday for generations to come:
“[Independence Day] will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival… It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade with shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this continent to the other from this Time forward forever more,” Adams wrote.
After voting on independence on July 2, the Continental Congress then needed to draft a document explaining the move to the public. It had been proposed in draft form by the Committee of Five (John Adams, Roger Sherman, Robert Livingston, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson) and it took two days for the Congress to agree on the edits.
Once the Congress approved the actual Declaration of Independence document on July 4, it ordered that it be sent to a printer named John Dunlap. About 200 copies of the “Dunlap Broadside” version of the document were printed, with John Hancock’s name printed at the bottom. Today, 26 copies remain.
That is why the Declaration has the words, “IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776,” at its top, because that is the day the approved version was signed in Philadelphia.
On July 8, 1776, Colonel John Nixon of Philadelphia read a printed Declaration of Independence to the public for the first time on what is now called Independence Square.
(Most of the members of the Continental Congress signed a version of the Declaration on August 2, 1776, in Philadelphia. The names of the signers were released publicly in early 1777.)
The late historian Pauline Maier said in her 1997 book, American Scripture: Making the Declaration of Independence, that no member of Congress recalled in early July 1777 that it had been almost a year since they declared their freedom from the British. They finally remembered the event on July 3, 1777, and July 4 became the day that seemed to make sense for celebrating independence.
Maier also said that arguments over the how to celebrate the Declaration arose between the Federalists (of John Adams) and the Republicans (of Thomas Jefferson) and that the Declaration and its anniversary day weren’t widely celebrated until the Federalists faded away from the political scene after 1812.
In an 1826 letter – the last he ever wrote — Thomas Jefferson spoke of the importance of Independence Day. “For ourselves, let the annual return of this day forever refresh our recollections of these rights, and an undiminished devotion to them,” he said.
Jefferson and Adams both passed away two days later, on the Fourth of July.