1. The song “God Bless America” sat in Irving Berlin’s rejection pile for 20 years
American composer Irving Berlin wrote the nation’s most iconic songs, but before that, it sat unnoticed because he didn’t think it was all that great. In the early 1900s, Berlin, drafted into the military, helped to draft a musical for troops. It was for this musical that he wrote the song as the production’s final number. Berlin eventually deemed it unfit for the musical and filed it away until singer Kate Smith requested something patriotic to sing on the radio as war broke out in Europe.
2. The Fourth of July is NOT the day America declared its independence
July 4, 1776 is commonly celebrated as the day that America declared its Independence. However, the official vote actually took place two days earlier. July 4th is actually just the day the Declaration of Independence was published in newspapers. Additionally, the document wasn’t fully signed by the 4th. It took nearly a month to get all 56 delegates’ signatures on the document.
3. Thomas Jefferson and John Adams both died on July 4, 50 years after the declaration
Despite the fact that the Fourth of July might not be the actual date of the declaration (depending on how to define when something becomes “official”), two of our nation’s most prominent founders, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, the second and third presidents respectively, died on the same day: July 4, 1926. It was the 50th anniversary of what is commonly referred to as Independence Day. The nation’s last remaining founder, James Monroe, died 5 years later – also on July 4.
4. Apple Pie wasn’t created in America
As it turns out, “as American as Apple Pie” isn’t all that accurate. Apple Pie existed well before the founding of America. Only one breed of Apples is indigenous to American soil. The rest were brought over by early European settlers who brought over the fruit and the recipes.
5. The modern, 50-star flag was designed by a student for a class project
As American expanded and changed so too did it’s flag. Over the years there have been many iterations of the American flag, but the current 50-star version was actually designed by high school student Robert G. Heft in Lancaster, Ohio. Heft’s assignment was to create a new “national banner” for America that would represent the addition of Alaska and Hawaii into statehood. Heft just simply added two more stars to the glad and stitched his own design. His finished product earned him a “B-” from his teacher. Disappointed by the grade, Heft sent his design on to President Dwight D. Eisenhower for consideration. Eisenhower chose his flag and it was officially adopted in 1960. His teacher, also, changed his grade to an “A”
6. July 4 didn’t become a national holiday until 1870
Yes, Americans have been celebrating the Fourth of July since as early as 1777, when the first ever major celebration in Philadelphia included a parade, a thirteen-shot cannon salute and fireworks. Congress, however, didn’t make it an official holiday until 1870, when it was added toa bill recognizing major state holidays at a federal level. The date didn’t become a paid legal holiday, granting federal employees the day off until 1938.
7. News of the Declaration in New York City sparked a riot
It wasn’t until July 9, 1776 that a copy of the Declaration of Independence reached New York City.Hundreds of British ships, at the time, occupied New York Harbor. George Washington ready the document out loud in front of City Hall despite the tensions. A crowd that heard the words later tore down a nearby statue of George III and melted it down to be made into more than 42,000 musket balls for Washington’s fledgling American army, who was in desperate need of supplies.
8. One signer of the Declaration of Independence later recanted
Richard Stockton, an attorney from Princeton, New Jersey, recanted his support of the revolution becoming the only signer of the Declaration of Independence to do so. On Nov. 30, 1776, Stockton was captured and thrown in jail by the British. After months of captivity and harsh treatment, Stockton repudiated his signature and swore allegiance to King George III. A year later after Stockton regained his freedom, he took a new oath to the state of New Jersey.
9. The Declaration of Independence spent World War II in Fort Knox
Shortly after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in late 1941, the signed Declaration and the Constitution were removed from public display and evacuated out of Washington D.C. Packed in 150 pounds of protective layers and gear, the documents were escorted by Secret Service on a train to Louisville, Kentucky, where a cavalry troop escorted it to Fort Knox for safekeeping. The documents were later returned to Washington in 1944.
10. There actually IS something written on the back of the Declaration of Independence
Nicholas Cage’s character in “National Treasure” steals the Declaration to discover a treasure map encrypted on the back of the document by the founding fathers in invisible ink. That was all simply fiction, however, there is a much simpler message written on the back of the document. “Original Declaration of Independence dated 4th July 1776.” It’s unclear who wrote the note, but the document was often rolled up for transport during the Revolutionary War so it’s thought that the text was added as a label.