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Leaving a Legacy: A Glimpse into the Early Founding Fathers' Fourth of July

Every year, on the 4th of July, the United States of America commemorates its independence from British rule. It's a day filled with parades, fireworks, barbecues, and patriotic celebrations. But have you ever wondered how our early founding fathers celebrated this momentous occasion?

I was curious and researched the past to uncover the ways in which our visionary leaders marked the birth of a nation. Here are a few examples.

  1. The Declaration of Independence: The foundation of the Fourth of July celebrations lies in the Declaration of Independence itself. On July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress adopted this historic document, penned by Thomas Jefferson. It declared the American colonies' separation from Britain, announcing the birth of a new nation. The first step towards celebrating independence was establishing the principles and values upon which the United States was built.

  2. Public Readings and Proclamations: In the early years following the Declaration of Independence, the Fourth of July was marked by public readings of the document in town squares and public gathering places. The citizens would assemble to hear the words of the founding fathers, reaffirming their commitment to liberty and self-governance. These readings were often accompanied by speeches, musical performances, and the ringing of bells to signal the joyous occasion.

  3. Processions and Parades: Processions and parades played a significant role in celebrating the Fourth of July during the early years of independence. These grand displays of patriotism featured marching bands, military units, and civic organizations. People dressed in their finest attire, proudly displaying the colors of the newly formed nation. The streets echoed with cheers and applause as the procession made its way through town, inspiring a sense of unity and pride among the spectators.

  4. Fireworks and Illuminations: Fireworks have become synonymous with Independence Day celebrations, and their origin can be traced back to the early days of the nation. The first recorded instance of using fireworks to commemorate the Fourth of July dates back to 1777, just one year after the Declaration of Independence. Founding father John Adams envisioned fireworks as part of the celebration, writing, "I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival." Since then, fireworks have lit up the sky, symbolizing the radiant spirit of freedom and independence.

  5. Picnics and Family Gatherings: Food has always played a central role in American celebrations, and the Fourth of July is no exception. Early celebrations often involved communal feasts, where people would come together to share food, stories, and camaraderie. Barbecues, picnics, and outdoor meals featuring traditional American fare were popular choices. These gatherings fostered a sense of community and camaraderie, as people from all walks of life celebrated their shared values and aspirations.

  6. Salutes and Gunfire: During the early years, it was customary to celebrate the Fourth of July with gun salutes. Cannons were fired, muskets were shot into the air, and fireworks emulated the sounds of battle. These symbolic gestures were a testament to the sacrifices made by the revolutionary forces in their struggle for independence. The noise echoed across the land, reminding everyone of the hard-fought victories and the enduring spirit of freedom. For many reasons, this ritual has been downplayed and is not recommended (and is even outlawed in most areas) for the Independence Celebration.

As we celebrate the Fourth of July, it is essential to reflect on the traditions and customs established by our early founding fathers. Their vision, bravery, and determination paved the way for the freedoms we enjoy today. From public readings of the Declaration of Independence to grand parades, fireworks, and communal feasts, their celebrations were rooted in the spirit of unity and the pursuit of liberty. Let us honor their legacy by remembering the reason for the holiday and enjoying time with family and friends.

Here are a few resources you may want to check out if you want to learn more about the history of the Independence Day Celebrations:

  1. National Archives: The official website of the National Archives of the United States provides access to historical documents, including the Declaration of Independence. America's Founding Documents | National Archives

  2. Provides vast information on the reason for the celebration as well as how so many of our early ancestors celebrated.

Our Founding Fathers left us a great legacy. As leaders, we should also consider the legacy we want to leave for our families, employees, organization, and communities. If you would like help in determining how to determine and create the legacy you want to leave, contact Julie Olsen at or give me a call at 912 695-1092.


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