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Today in History: Happy Fourth!

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July 4th fireworks, Washington, D.C. Prints and Photographs Division

Happy Fourth of July! Today in 1776, the Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence, declaring freedom of the 13 colonies from Great Britain.

The Library is home to the rough draft of the Declaration of Independence. A couple of years ago, thanks to the work of the Library of Congress’ Preservation Research and Testing Division, it was discovered that declaration author Thomas Jefferson had originally written the phrase “our fellow-subjects” in the portion of the document that deals with grievances against King George III, He apparently changed his mind, and over the word “subjects” he inked an alternative, the word “citizens.”

Jefferson, whose papers also reside here at the Library, marked his last Independence Day when he died on July 4, 1826.

You can also read more about the Declaration and other related material here.

Americans all over our nation celebrate with backyard barbecues, parades, fireworks, flag displays and more. I’ll actually be skating in the national Independence Day Parade here in D.C. and hopefully enjoying some fireworks later, although my days of Roman candle wars have come and gone. How will you celebrate?

I also thought it would be fun to give you a few facts and figures courtesy of the United States Census Bureau.

This Independence Day, the nation’s estimated population is more than 313 million, as compared with 2.5 million in 1776.

Last year, America imported more than $223 million worth of fireworks.

It’s likely that the burgers and steaks on your grill today came from Texas, which accounted for about one-sixth of the nation’s total production of cattle and calves in 2011. And if beef isn’t on the menu, it’s possible your hot dogs and pork sausages are coming from Iowa, which reported more than 19 million hogs and pigs as of March 1, 2012.

Want an extra dose of patriotism? Try visiting Eagle Pass, Texas; Independence, Mo., Patriot, Ind.; American Fork, Utah; or Iowa, specifically Libertyville, New Liberty, North Liberty and West Liberty.


  1. Thank you for the opportunity to be inspired once again by printed and spoken words and ideas. I appreciate this greeting on the fourth and especially appreciate the Richard Dreyfuss presentation in May of this year. I have shared that May 2012 speech with at least twenty-five colleagues. I think in it there is the elemental seed of why we can stand together with many different ideas and still be a “We” the people. Jefferson’s change from “subjects” to “citizens” may capture the essence of what each of them were trying to say. Thank you again.

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