Have you ever wondered where it all began? We share this lesson in history by Mary Lou Cagle.


by Mary Lou Cagle

The 4th of July is a huge day of celebration in our country – but why is that day so significant and WHY do we have fireworks?

The United States of America got its beginnings in the 17th and 18th centuries when 13 British colonies were founded along the Atlantic coast of North America. These colonies were established by British colonists who travelled across the Atlantic Ocean from Europe and include New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia.

The colonies, which were ruled by the Monarchy and Parliament in Great Britain, began to recognize that Britain did not want and would not accept freedoms which the colonists desperately wanted. In the early 1770’s, America colonists began to fear that Britain was planning on taking all their freedoms away and talk of revolution grew.

Colonial leaders formed the Continental Congress, which met in Philadelphia. The Second Continental Congress decided that a declaration should be made to announce that the 13 American colonies were to be free and independent states. A committee, chaired by Thomas Jefferson, was appointed to write the declarative document which would clarify and formally announce the political separation of the 13 North American colonies from Great Britain and that this separation was necessary and unavoidable.

On July 2, 1776, Congress voted to declare our independence from Britain and on July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was officially adopted. That summer the Declaration of Independence would be accepted by all 13 colonies, and, on September 9, 1776, our name officially became The United States of America.

But you ask “why, FIREWORKS?? History shows that John Adams – a founding father and our second president – wrote to his wife on July 3, 1776, and said that the signing of this significant document,

“…ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations [fireworks] from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.” (

And so, the tradition began a year later in Philadelphia on July 4, 1777, when ships cannons fired a 13-gun salute to honor the 13 colonies (now the United States of America). This first official event marking the anniversary of The Declaration of Independence continued with all kinds of celebratory events and ended with the ringing of bells and fireworks. That same evening, in Adam’s hometown of Boston, the Sons of Liberty set off fireworks over the Boston Commons. It has been so ever since.

The 4th of July is a special day when the skies across the United States light up. This is the day to say Happy 4th, to wear shirts with the American flag displayed, to eat hot dogs, to attend or watch a baseball game, to take a nap, to sing our national anthem – The Star-Spangled Banner, enjoy the FIREWORKS, and remember how this day began so long ago.
And, as the day ends, thank God for our Freedom, for it has come at a price.