Independence Day: 14 Patriotic Events in History That Happened on July 4

The Fourth of July—Independence Day—is the holiday Americans know best, but the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, is not the only notable event to have occurred on that date.

Presidential deaths

Three former United States presidents died on July 4. John Adams and Thomas Jefferson both died in 1826 and President James Monroe died five years later in 1831.

GettyImages-1369176 Pedestrians walk around the George Washington statue in front of Federal Hall September 5, 2002 in New York City. On July 4, 1789, Washington signed the first U.S. tax tariff act. Spencer Platt/Getty Images

U.S. tariffs

In 1789, America’s first president, George Washington, signed the first U.S. Tariff Act in the country’s history. The signing occurred during Washington’s first 100 days as president and placed a 5 percent tax on all imports, according to the Mount Vernon website.

A Point of Education

The United States Military Academy, commonly known as West Point, opened its doors for the first time on July 4, 1802. To this day, West Point is widely regarded as one of the most prestigious universities in the United States.

Abolishing slavery

New York abolished slavery on July 4, 1827, although New Yorkers largely celebrated the moment on July 5 out of concern that a celebration on the fourth would be disrupted, according to  The New York Times. Four thousand black people marched in a parade and abolitionist leader William Hamilton declared: “This day we stand redeemed from a bitter thralldom.”

 Abolitionist and former slave Frederick Douglass also gave a speech. The New York Times reported that he asked the audience: "What, to the American slave, is your Fourth of July?"

GettyImages-52782736 American orator, editor, author, abolitionist and former slave Frederick Douglass (1818 - 1895) edits a journal at his desk, late 1870s. Douglass delivered a speech celebrating New York's decision to abolish slavery. Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Patriotic songs

In 1831, people attending a children’s concert at the Park Street Church in Boston sang “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” for the first time in public, according to Ben’s Guide. The song served as a de facto national anthem until "The Star Spangled Banner" became the official anthem in 1931.

Patriotic song “America the Beautiful” was published by Katherine Lee Bates on July 4, 1895, in the form of a poem in the weekly newspaper The Congregationalist.

New States Join the U.S.

In 1835, according to the Texas State Library and Archives Commission, the Texas Congress used the anniversary of the country’s founding to vote to accept the United States’ offer of annexation.

In 1959, America unveiled its new 49-star flag honoring Alaska’s statehood.

An updated flag was unfurled a year later on July 4 as well, marking Hawaii’s joining with the United States.

Liberty and Friendship

France presented the Statue of Liberty to the United States on July 4, 1884, in Paris. It was presented by Count Ferdinand de Lesseps to then Minister to France Levi P. Morton as a “souvenir of the unalterable friendship of the two nations.”

GettyImages-827801624 A view of the Statue of Liberty, August 8, 2017 in New York City. Immigration continues to be a hotly debated topic in the United States during the Trump administration. On July 4, 1884, the Statue of Liberty was given to the United States by France. Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The Luckiest Man

Baseball icon Lou Gehrig became the first Major League Baseball player to have his number retired at Yankee Stadium, where he made his iconic “luckiest man” speech on July 4, 1939. Gehrig died two years later of ALS and he’s credited with bringing national and international attention to the disease.

Freedom prevails

The cornerstone of the Freedom Tower was laid in New York City on July 4, 2004.

"I cannot imagine a more appropriate day to stand on this sacred ground and lay a cornerstone dedicated to freedom, the defining principle of our nation and the reason that we were attacked on September 11, 2001," then-New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said, according to The New York Times.

Happy Fourth of July

Congress made Independence Day an official holiday in 1870, but even before it was made official, Americans have marked the day dedicated to the founding of the nation with barbecues, red, white, and blue attire, and fireworks.

GettyImages-455402390 A fireworks display concludes a ceremony to commemorate the bicentennial of the writing of The Star-Spangled Banner at Fort McHenry National Historic Park. Various notable events have occurred over the years on the Fourth of July, when fireworks are on display. Mark Makela/Getty Images

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