July 4, 1776, the Second Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence. This picture depicts that meeting.

On This Day In North Carolina History – July 4th

On July 4, 1776, the Second Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence, marking the colonies’ separation from Great Britain. This document, which famously asserts that “all men are created equal,” is cherished by Americans alongside the Constitution.

The first anniversary of American independence was spontaneously celebrated by Philadelphians, as noted by John Adams. However, Independence Day became widely observed only after the War of 1812, with significant events like the groundbreaking for the Erie Canal aligning with July 4th.

By the 1870s, July 4th was a major secular holiday, officially made a federal holiday on June 28, 1870. Celebrations were widespread, even on the frontier, with communities gathering for parades, speeches, and festivities. An interview from the 1930s described the Fourth as the “big event of the year,” emphasizing its importance over other holidays.

In the South, celebrations included military parades, barbecues, and speeches, often featuring unique local customs and contests.

The 4th of July is also a celebration of life as John Adams (age 90) and Thomas Jefferson (age 83) died on the 4th, in 1826, hours apart from each other. In Adams’ last moments before his passing, his last words were, “Jefferson lives!”  Did Adams see Jefferson’s spirit visit his room in those last moments, waiting to walk with his friend into the afterlife?

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