19 (Mostly Patriotic) Things That Also Happened on the Fourth of July

July 4th has been an unusually significant date in U.S. history.

Photo | G. Widman for Visit Philadelphia

Photo | G. Widman for Visit Philadelphia

Did you know that John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe — the second, third and fifth U.S. presidents — all died on the Fourth of July, the date on which the United States declared its independence from Great Britain? Jefferson and Adams actually died on the same exact date, in 1826, and Monroe in 1831. Did all three hold on, trying to make it to that highly symbolic day just one more time? What was wrong with number four, James Madison (died June 28, 1836), that he couldn’t hang in there for six more days? I once read (but didn’t really understand) an explanation of why it’s not surprising that in any school classroom of 25 or so pupils, two of them will have been born on the same day. This is called the Birthday Paradox, and I suppose there’s a corollary Death Day Paradox. Still, the Fourth of July has been an unusually significant date in U.S. history, thanks to both serendipity and the fact that folks tend to commemorate the occasion in all sorts of ways. Here are a few more events — some fascinating, some shocking, and some completely trivial — to note this weekend while you gather around the grill. 

July 4, 1802: The U.S. Military Academy at West Point opens its doors.

July 4, 1803: President Thomas Jefferson publicly announces the Louisiana Purchase.

July 4, 1832: Five hundred schoolchildren perform “My Country, Tis of Thee” (all 13 verses!) for the first time ever, in Boston.

July 4, 1845: Henry David Thoreau moves into his cottage on Walden Pond.

July 4, 1855: The first edition of Camden poet Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass is published.

July 4, 1863: General Robert E. Lee’s troops withdraw from Gettysburg.

July 4, 1881: Booker T. Washington establishes the Tuskegee Institute.

July 4, 1895: Katherine Lee Bates publishes “America the Beautiful.”

July 4, 1908: New York Giants pitcher George “Hooks” Wiltse no-hits the Philadelphia Phillies in a 1-0 game that lasts 10 innings.

July 4, 1942: The U.S. air offensive over Nazi Germany begins.

July 4, 1946: The Philippines gain independence from the United States.

July 4, 1956: The most intense one-minute rainfall ever measured in the world falls in Unionville, Maryland.

July 4, 1959: Island Records — label of everyone from Bob Marley to Bon Jovi to Justin Bieber — is founded.

July 4, 1966: President Lyndon Johnson signs the Freedom of Information Act.

July 4, 1970: One hundred people are injured in race riots in Asbury Park, New Jersey.

July 4, 1990: Four hundred New Kids on the Block fans are treated for heat exhaustion in St. Paul, Minnesota.

July 4, 1993: A Pizza Hut blimp deflates in the air but lands safely on the roof of a building on West 56th Street in New York City.

July 4, 1997: Pathfinder, the first base station with a wheeled rover (named Sojourner, for civil rights pioneer Sojourner Truth) to successfully operate outside the Earth and moon, lands on Mars.

July 4, 2009: The observation deck in the Statue of Liberty’s crown reopens after being shuttered for eight years in the wake of 9/11.

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