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Fourth facts

The list: 5 things you didn’t know about July 4

Fourth of July parade float
A group of high school students sing patriotic songs from a float during a Fourth of July Parade in Bristol, RI, in 2009.

To help you prepare for the nation’s 242nd birthday next week, here are five things you didn’t know about Independence Day.

1. It honors the adoption of the Declaration of Independence. The Continental Congress voted for independence from Great Britain July 2, 1776, and adopted the document two days later. The bulk of the signing took place in August, and Benjamin Franklin, the first Postmaster General, was the oldest of the 56 signers at age 70.

2. It wasn’t nationally recognized for a long time. While Massachusetts was the first to make Independence Day a state holiday in 1781 and celebrations became more widespread after the War of 1812, Congress didn’t declare the commemoration a federal holiday until 1870.

3. Bristol, RI, holds one of the oldest annual celebrations. Since the event began in 1785, the festivities have expanded to include outdoor concerts, derby races, a gala and many other activities that begin each Flag Day, June 14, and continue through a 2.5-mile parade July 4.

4. Three U.S. presidents died — and one was born — July 4. John Adams, the second president, and his successor, Thomas Jefferson, both died July 4, 1826, and James Monroe, the fifth president, died July 4, 1831. Calvin Coolidge, the nation’s 30th commander-in-chief, was born July 4, 1872.

5. It’s a “dog” day of summer. Every July 4, roughly 150 million hotdogs are consumed — enough to stretch from Washington, DC, to Los Angeles more than five times.

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