July 2, 1776 is when John Adams proclaimed: I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, spirits, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more. He wrote this to his beloved wife, Abigail. The revised Declaration of Independence was adopted on July 4, 1776, which is why it's celebrated on the Fourth.
Ever since 1777, Americans have celebrated the Day of Independence with fireworks, parades, picnics, family gatherings, etc. The first celebration had a firing of the canon, militia march and the reading of the Declaration of Independence with much 'HUZZA!' across the land. Ever since, there's not much changed. It seems that American's like a good party and it was passed with zeal as a proven National Holiday plus a few years later, adding the fifth as another day in which everyone will also get paid. There was a bit of snag with DC, since it's not a state, but the folks who live there, did finally obtain the same rights as everyone else.
Both Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, who had finally made up and resumed their friendship after many years, died fifty years after the signing of the document. Two of our glorious Founding Fathers died together. It seems to be more of Divine intervention than a coincidence to me, that this should happen.
During the time of the Civil War, President Lincoln found it to be not a time of rejoicing but a time of sorrow, for he saw his Union slipping from further away plus all the dead haunted him. But with the Union victory in Vicksburg, they celebrated on July 7, 1863. In 1865, it's the first time that Freedmen could celebrate, reading the Emanicipation Proclamation in honor of the now assassinated President Lincoln. Tattered flags were flown and there was celebration all across the land, even at Gettysburg.
An added note, in 1868 President Johnson had the Declaration of Independence read not only in English but also in Spanish. 1883 it was read in Swedish in Moorhead, MN. God Bless those Swedes! 1907 Mark Twain gave a Fourth July speech in London. 1918, New York City gave a pageant parade with forty different nationalites. For the 150 year celebration, President Coolidge planted a willow tree similar to one that had been growing at Mount Vernon during President Washington's life. There were also speeches, ceremonies aplenty at Monticello and all across the land plus overseas. In 1919, one of the peaks in the Black Hills is renamed Mt. Theodore Roosevelt. In 1942, fireworks were cancelled because of 'blackout' during the war. 1960 gave us our 50th star, Hawaii. 1976, our nation's 200 anniversary, at 2:00 when the Declaration was approved, bells rang thirteen times simultaneously across our land commemorating our first thirteen colonies.
The Freedman speeches still ring across our land. The Declaration is still read. In spite of all of our differences and squabbles over politics, Americans still love our land and celebrate it with zest and honor.
So to EVERYONE who has served, will serve, knows someone who has or will, THANK YOU! GOD BLESS YOU ALL AND GOD BLESS AMERICA!