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July 04, 2023

From 1776 – 2023, U.S. Citizens Continue Their Independent Streak

By Pam Lamberger, Public Services Librarian

It’s time to run Old Glory up the flagpole in honor of the grandest of America’s summer celebrations – Independence Day, also known as the Fourth of July. The Stars & Stripes symbolizes the patriotism and pride felt by our nation’s citizens and residents on this day and throughout the year. Despite her flaws and challenges, people the world over aspire to make the United States their home.

Holiday History

Thomas Paine – Father of the American Revolution and author of Common Sense

The Continental Congress first began considering a motion for independence from Great Britain on June 7th of 1776. Many colonists had become disillusioned with Britain’s taxation and interference in their lives. More than a few had read Thomas Paine’s pamphlet Common Sense, which presented a reasoned argument for breaking from England’s control.

It took less than one month, plus many hours of heated discussion, before a five-man committee hammered out the Declaration of Independence, with Thomas Jefferson wielding the pen. The near-unanimous yes-vote was cast in the Continental Congress on July 2, with the delegates from the 13 colonies giving their stamp of approval two days later. This is when the document was formally adopted. Thus was launched the American Revolutionary War, and this is why we celebrate on July 4th.

The first organized celebration of this monumental event took place one year later in Philadelphia. On July 4, 1777, a thirteen-gun salute rang out from ships’ cannons, one explosive barrage for each of the original thirteen colonies. Fireworks also lit up the night sky with 13 sparkling rockets. The celebratory tradition continued over the years and really ramped up after the War of 1812, another skirmish with Great Britain.

It was not until 1870 that Congress made it official, declaring July 4th a federal holiday. In 1941, the date was declared a paid holiday for those working for the federal government. Though American citizens disagree about many things, most agree that they have patriotic feelings toward the land we all call home.

Patriotic Memories

Many memories come to mind when I reminisce about my own Independence Day celebrations over the years. I recall neighborhood parades, where the kids would trick out their bikes, trikes, and scooters with flags, signs, and red-white & blue streamers. The scouts and ball teams would don their uniforms and march along neighborhood streets. Spectators would wave and hoot encouragement as they passed by.

Afterward, people would gather to share a barbecue picnic and enjoy the camaraderie of community. Traditional foods would grace the tables, including burgers, hot dogs, potato salad, deviled eggs, and watermelon. The afternoons would be filled with swimming, boating, playing outdoor games, and having lawn chair chats.

Pittsburgh Pennsylvania’s renowned Independence Day fireworks display. Photo by Carol M. Highsmith, 2019. Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress.

Later in the day, families would come together again as the sky darkened and raise their eyes to the skies for the traditional fireworks show. Even small towns set off impressive displays, accompanied by the beat of live or recorded music. Happily, these traditions continue to the present day.

What’s the Big Picture?

Even during times when Americans have opposing opinions on many issues, it is comforting to realize that we have a common allegiance and devotion to the nation that was formed by our forefathers so many generations ago. A big part of the impetus for this country’s break from Great Britain was the universal value placed on the freedom for independent thought. Ensuring a safe forum for civil discourse and debate enables those with divergent viewpoints to gain context and understanding, to compromise, and to find progress toward a unified future.

America’s libraries play a big part in helping people to learn about various thoughts, ideas, and viewpoints. Only when we become aware of and open to considering another view, can we knowledgeably decide how we truly feel about a controversial topic. What better time to reinforce these values than on Independence Day? As we celebrate our nation’s independence, may we rededicate ourselves to tolerance for everyone’s right to free thought and access to a broad and diverse collection of information sources.

Happy July 4th to us all – remember to wear your red, white & blue!


Common Sense by Thomas Paine, 1737-1809

(book and e-book available at the library)







Gale in Context: Opposing Viewpoints (Library database)



Gale in Context: U.S. History (Library database)




Library of Congress: Today in History – July 4

Encyclopedia Britannica: Independence Day

Military.com: History of the Fourth of July

National Geographic Kids: Independence Day

PBS: A Capital Fourth

USA Today: Facts You Didn’t Know About the Fourth of July Holiday