On This Day: July 4th Throughout History

Did you know that the 4th of July has only been a paid federal holiday since 1938? Even so, Americans have celebrated Independence Day since the first anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. In 1777, John Adams wrote that the “anniversary of American Independence, was celebrated . . . with a festivity and ceremony becoming the occasion” (1). Though the 4th of July has been earmarked to celebrate America’s independence, the 4th of July has seen many other significant moments throughout US history.

On July 4, 1876, Susan B. Anthony stood at the 4th of July ceremony in Philadelphia and read the “Declaration of Rights of the Women of the United States.” The National Women’s Suffrage Association (NWSA) had requested the opportunity to speak at the ceremony and were swiftly denied. Despite this, several NWSA members, including Anthony, stormed the stage and read their declaration aloud, which outlined the injustice of women’s exclusion from rights such as voting and trial by a jury of one’s peers. The declaration ends by saying, “And now, at the close of a hundred years . . . we ask justice, we ask equality, we ask that all the civil and political rights that belong to citizens of the United States, be guaranteed to us and our daughters forever” (3).  

On July 4, 1884, France presented the United States with the Statue of Liberty. After the presentation of the gift to Levi P. Morton, the United States’ Minister to France, the statue was disassembled and shipped to the US for reconstruction. It took about two years to finish building the pedestal and assembling the statue.

On July 4, 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Freedom of Information Act. This act gave American citizens the right to request to see records kept by federal agencies. Holding federal representatives accountable for their actions and increasing their transparency is an important part of our democracy.

On July 4, 1997, the NASA Pathfinder rover, Sojourner, landed on Mars. The rover spent its 83 days on Mars taking photos and other measurements that were sent back to Earth. The success of the mission paved the way for subsequent orbiters and rovers to visit Mars.

  1. https://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?ammem/hlaw:@field%28DOCID+@lit%28dg007258%29%29
  2. https://share.america.gov/a-lot-of-history-happened-on-july-4/
  3. https://awpc.cattcenter.iastate.edu/2017/03/21/declaration-of-rights-of-the-women-of-the-united-states-july-4-1876/
  4. https://www.nps.gov/stli/learn/historyculture/places_creating_statue.htm
  5. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Freedom-of-Information-Act
  6. https://www.nasa.gov/image-feature/july-4-1997-sojourner-arrives-on-the-red-planet