Happy Birthday to America!

Independence Day, commonly known as July 4th or the Fourth of July, commemorates the Continental Congress’ adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. The document, primarily written by Thomas Jefferson, served as a formal announcement that the 13 American colonies were no longer part of the British Empire and would henceforth be free and independent states.

Regarded as the birthday of the United States of America, the day is typically celebrated with parades, fireworks, ceremonies, barbecues and family gatherings.

Fun Facts About 4th of july

In 1778, George Washington celebrated the fourth of july by giving his soldiers a double ration of rum and a salute via artillery.

In 1791, the term “Independence Day” was officially recorded for the first time.

In 1870, Congress decided to make the fourth of July an unpaid holiday.

Then in 1938, Congress reinstated the fourth of July as a paid holiday.

Firecracker Fact Sheet

This year, Macy’s Fourth of July Fireworks makes its second foray to the Hudson River. Here are prime places to catch the show.

  • By Randi Eichenbaum

  • Published Jun 23, 2010

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West Side Highway
Choose from one of the many entrances below 59th Street along Eleventh Avenue and post up before the show’s approximate 9:20 p.m. start time.

Piers 54 and Pier 84
West St. and 13th St. / West St. and 44th St.
These two piers are the only ones that Macy’s recommends going to for a clear view of the show.

Despite a zero-tolerance policy for rooftop parties and open containers, Hoboken looks to be a promising spot for clear views of the fireworks. Check out their street festival in honor of the occasion beforehand on Frank Sinatra Drive, between 1st and 7th Streets, which starts at noon.


Water Taxi Cruise
South Street Seaport, Pier 17; 212-742-1969
There are still tickets left for Water Taxi’s annual Fourth of July cruise. The $100 ticket includes munchies, and there will be a cash-only bar selling beer and wine. Leaving from the South Street Seaport, the ship will head west to see the spectacle. For tickets, go here.

The Jewel
23rd St. and FDR Dr.; 212-288-1975
Expect to get plenty tipsy on this open-bar Fourth of July cruise. Tickets are $150 (or $99 per person for groups of ten or more) and also include a buffet dinner and D.J. You can reserve a spot here.

Clipper City
South Street Seaport, Pier 17; 212-518-4604
Touting itself as the largest passenger sailboat in the U.S., the Clipper City, which is modeled after an 1854 tall ship, is going big for the Fourth. For $350, you’ll get grilled meats off a BBQ pit and a Champagne open bar on this five-and-a-half-hour sail. Tickets can be purchased here.


Hudson Terrace
621 W. 46th St., nr. Eleventh Ave.; 212-315-9400
General admission to Hudson Terrace’s fireworks-viewing party is sold out, but should you decide to go fancy this year there are still a number of VIP packages available. You can choose among a handful of luxuries (and price points), which range from bottles of Champagne to tickets to an after-party at a yet-to-be-announced locale. Tickets can be purchased here.

Press Lounge at Ink48
653 Eleventh Ave., at 48th St.; 212-757-2224
A perfect opportunity to check out our rooftop bar of choice‘s wraparound terrace . The $225 cover includes four hours of open bar and passed hors d’oeuvre. For reservations, e-mail reservations@printrestaurant.com.

The Sky Room at the Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott Times Square
330 W. 40th St., nr. Ninth Ave.; 212-380-1195
At 400 feet above ground, there shouldn’t be much to obstruct your view at this brand-new rooftop bar. There’s no cover, and reservations for table service are available. Of the different areas here, the Northside Terrace will be the best place to take in the show, we’re told.

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Independence Day, commonly known as the Fourth of July, is the annual celebration of nationhood. It commemorates the passage of the Declaration of Independence by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776.

The Congress had voted in favor of independence from Great Britain on July 2 but did not actually complete the process of revising the Declaration of Independence, originally drafted by Thomas Jefferson in consultation with fellow committee members John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman and William Livingston, until two days later. The celebration was initially modeled on that of the king’s birthday, which had been marked annually by bell ringing, bonfires, solemn processions and oratory. Such festivals had long played a significant role in the Anglo-American political tradition. Especially in the 17th and 18th centuries, when dynastic and religious controversies racked the British Empire (and much of the rest of Europe), the choice of which anniversaries of historic events were celebrated and which were lamented had clear political meanings. The ritual of toasting the king and other patriot-heroes—or of criticizing them—became an informal kind of political speech, further formalized in mid-18th century when the toasts given at taverns and banquets began to be reprinted in newspapers.

Early Years

In the early stages of the revolutionary movement in the colonies during the 1760s and early 1770s, patriots used such celebrations to proclaim their resistance to Parliament’s legislation while lauding the king as the real defender of English liberties. However, the marking of the first days of independence during the summer of 1776 actually took the form in many towns of a mock funeral for the king, whose “death” symbolized the end of monarchy and tyranny and the rebirth of liberty.

During the early years of the republic, Independence Day was commemorated with parades, oratory and toasting, in ceremonies that celebrated the existence of the new nation. These rites played an equally important role in the evolving federal political system. With the rise of informal political parties, they provided venues for leaders and constituents to tie local and national contests to independence and the issues facing the national polity. By the mid-1790s, the two nascent political parties held separate, partisan Independence Day festivals in most larger towns. Perhaps for this reason, Independence Day became the model for a series of (often short-lived) celebrations that sometimes contained more explicit political resonance, such as Washington’s birthday and the anniversary of Jefferson’s inauguration while he served as president (1801–09).

19th Century Celebrations

The bombastic torrent of words that characterized Independence Day during the 19th century made it both a serious occasion and one sometimes open to ridicule—like the increasingly popular and democratic political process itself in that period. With the growth and diversification of American society, the Fourth of July commemoration became a patriotic tradition which many groups—not just political parties—sought to claim. Abolitionists, women’s rights advocates, the temperance movement, and opponents of immigration (nativists) all seized the day and its observance, in the process often declaring that they could not celebrate with the entire community while an un-American perversion of their rights prevailed.

A Modern Holiday

With the rise of leisure, the Fourth also emerged as a major midsummer holiday. The prevalence of heavy drinking and the many injuries caused by setting off fireworks prompted reformers of the late 19th and the early 20th century to mount a Safe and Sane Fourth of July movement. During the later 20th century, although it remained a national holiday marked by parades, concerts of patriotic music and fireworks displays, Independence Day declined in importance as a venue for politics. It remains a potent symbol of national power and of specifically American qualities—even the freedom to stay at home and barbecue.

Copyright © 1994-2009 Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. For more information visit Britannica.com.

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This Day in History

Jul 4

Lead Story

U.S. declares independence, 1776

In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the Continental Congress adopts the Declaration of Independence, which proclaims the independence of the United Stat…

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