Originally created 07/03/97

Glorious Fourth!



"We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately."

Standing in front of the Continental Congress, Benjamin Franklin's words filled the room in Philadelphia's Independence Hall. It was early 1776 and the fires of independence were burning in America.

On July 4, the Continental Congress approved the final draft of the Declaration of Independence and America was born. Celebrations began in 1777 with the ringing of town bells. Fireworks picnics and parades were added to the celebrations in the early 1800s.

On this, the 221st anniversary of the document, the traditions and celebrations continue.

Here is a look at the origin and celebration of Independence Day.

  • Georgia signers:
  • George Walton, who was born in Virginia, spent his final years in Augusta at Meadow Garden Plantation off what is now 13th Street. Nearby Walton Way is named for him. At age 26, Walton was the youngest signer. He moved to Augusta in 1790 and died in 1804.

    Lyman Hall, a minister by training, was born in Connecticut and eventually moved to Georgia, where he became governor in 1783. In 1790, Hall bought Shell Bluff Plantation in Burke County, on the Savannah River about 25 miles south of Augusta. He died soon after the purchase. His grave was moved to the monument site. Button Gwinnett was born in England and originally settled in South Carolina. He moved to Savannah as a merchant and later owned St. Catherine's Island. He was killed in a duel with Gen. Lachlan McIntosh, who had reportedly publicly insulted Gwinnett. Although he is honored on the Greene Street monument, the location of his grave in Savannah has long been a mystery.

  • South Carolina signers:
  • Edward Rutledge, born near Charleston, studied law in England, served as governor from 1798 until 1800, fought in Revolutionary War, was captured during siege of Charleston.

    Thomas Heyward Jr. born in St. Luke's Parish, S.C., studied law in England, was a statesman, soldier and judge. Thomas Lynch Jr. , born in Winyaw, graduated from Cambridge, studied law in London, lost at sea during a trip to regain his health. Arthur Middleton, born near Charleston and educated in England, fought in Revolutionary War, was captured during siege of Charleston.

    Declaration of Independence facts

  • The Declaration of Independence is the formal document written by Thomas Jefferson and adopted July 4, 1776, by the second Continental Congress, declaring the13 American colonies free and independent of Great Britain.
  • Jefferson was in charge of committee formed in early June to write document. Members were John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Philip Livingston, and Roger Sherman.
  • It was sent to Continental Congress for approval on June 28. However, several changes had to be made first. Initially nine of 13 colonies approved. Two (South Carolina and Pennsylvania) voted no, Delaware was undecided and New York abstained.
  • On July 5, copies of the document were handed out.
  • July 6, first newspaper printing in the Philadelphia Evening Post.
  • July 8, first public reading to large cheering crowds.
  • Actual signing of document not completed until August.

  • Fifty members signed document on Aug. 2, 1776
  • The last signature was Thomas McKean (Del.) in 1781
  • Over the years, especially when there was a military threat, the document was moved.
  • In 1921 the document was moved to the Library of Congress.
  • The Document is now under glass at the National Archives building in Washington, D.C.
  • Liberty Bell facts

  • The bell of Independence Hall was rung July 8, 1776, to proclaim the independence of the United States.
  • The bell was originally callled the Providence bell.
  • The bell cracked the first time it was rung.
  • The bell weighs over 2,080 pounds.
  • During the funeral of Chief Justice John Marshall on July 8, 1835, a then-small crack became so large the bell could no longer be sounded.
  • During the D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944, the sound of the bell was broadcast across the country on the radio.
  • Only three recordings of the bell are known to be in existence. Two were made during the 1940s for radio stations, and the third is owned by Columbia Records.
  • 1,500,000 people visit the bell annually.
  • In 1996 as an April Fools' joke, Taco Bell ran a full-page ad in many newspapers claiming to have bought the Liberty Bell.
  • The Liberty Bell Pavillion was opened in 1976 for the nation's Bicentennial celebrations.
  • Every year the bell is rung (symbolically tapped) in unison with bellsacross the country.
  • Flags

    1776 - The Cambridge, or Grand Union flag, preceded the Declaration of Independence and still bore the British flag of the time.

    1777 - The first flag ordered by Congress on June 14 had no official arrangement of its 13 stars. Several variations were used.