Declaring Our Independence

A Few Facts You Might Not Know

Fourth_of_July_HeaderThe Fourth of July is the ultimate celebration of our country’s freedom. The Declaration of Independence was a powerful statement against the tyranny and oppression that our forefathers faced, and its tenets remain in the spotlight even in modern day.

You may think you know all about the declaration and its signing, but do you know the full story? We’ve compiled a few interesting facts you might not know.


Although it was approved by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, who actually signed the Declaration of Independence and when is a contentious issue among historians. Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and Benjamin Franklin maintained in countless records that it was signed on July 4. However, in 1796, one signer – Thomas McKean – challenged the idea that anyone had signed it that day. Exactly how many congressional delegates were present at the time remains a mystery. Some historians would say it was only two – John Hancock, the president of Congress, and his secretary, Charles Thompson. Others would say it was as many as 32 people that day. 56 people eventually signed, and there’s evidence that most did it a month later on August 2 in Philadelphia. We may never know the full truth, but the key takeaway is that the holiday celebrates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, not necessarily its formal signing.


John Adams wrote a letter to his wife, Abigail, dated July 3, where he predicted the second day of July would be celebrated in the future as the true Independence Day. That’s because Congress voted on July 2, 1776, to officially separate from Great Britain; to establish the colonies as “free and independent states.” New York was the only colony of the 13 to abstain from voting, because its delegates did not feel they had permission to cast such a vote without consulting with their colleagues. Adams' recognition of the event as a historic achievement worthy of celebration for centuries to come was spot on, but his prediction about the date was famously off base.


The original document was hand-written on parchment, after a couple days of negotiations and revisions. Once Congress approved the document on July 4, it was sent to a printer named John Dunlap. About 200 copies of the document, known as “the Dunlap broadside” were printed. Out of those original copies, 26 remain today, mostly owned by American museums and other institutions. The Pennsylvania Evening Post was the first newspaper to publish a copy on July 6, 1776.


Hungry for more Independence Day knowledge, like how many hot dogs we eat collectively or how much money we spend on fireworks each year? Check out our Fourth of July Fun Facts infographic. And if your favorite part of the holiday is the fireworks, check out our Firework Facts infographic.

We at Pioneer Services wish everyone a safe and happy Fourth of July!

Jake Butler

About the author: Jake Butler

Jake Butler is a staff writer at Pioneer Services who understands the challenges facing modern military families. He writes informative and entertaining pieces about military life, financial education and everything in between. Follow Jake on Google+.

Contact: Jake Butler


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