This Fourth of July, Americans will celebrate the adoption of the Declaration of Independence with picnics, parades and, of course, fireworks. It's a tradition that's been in place for more than 200 years — and for more than 200 years, it's been kind of wrong.Image from Old Hollywood.
"It is the right day to celebrate the Declaration of Independence," author and historian Ray Raphael tells NPR's Guy Raz. "It is not the right day to celebrate the signing of the declaration or the right day to celebrate independence. The vote for independence was on July 2 — two days before — and the first signing of the declaration ... was not until August 2 — a month later."..
In his book Founding Myths: Stories That Hide Our Patriotic Past, Raphael explores the truth behind the stories of the making of our nation — like how America ended up lighting fireworks on the 4th and not the 2nd.
Raphael says that even the writers of the declaration expected July 2 to be the day that went down in history.
"Adams wrote a letter to his wife, Abigail, on the 3rd of July, the day after they voted for independence, saying the 2nd of July will always be remembered and will be celebrated with parades and illuminations and patriotic speeches," Raphael says. "He described the Fourth of July to the tee, but he called it the 2nd."
America ended up with the 4th because that's the day the Declaration of Independence was sent out to the states to be read. The document was dated July 4, so that's the day they celebrated.