July 4 is for many people, a day of independence from their jobs. More than that, however, it is the anniversary of the day in 1776 when the Declaration of Independence was approved by the Continental Congress, setting the 13 colonies on the road to freedom as a sovreign nation.

Declaration of Independence

• 56 delegates signed the Declaration of Independence, drafted by a Committee of Five: Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Roger Sherman and Robert R. Livingston. Jefferson, regarded as the strongest and most eloquent writer, wrote most of the document.

• John Hancock, president of the Second Continental Congress, was the first signer, and his signature is the largest — hence the term John Hancock, which is still used today as a synonymn for signature.

• Benjamin Franklin, age 70, who represented Pennsylvania, was the oldest of the signers. Edward Rutledge, 26, of South Carolina, was the youngest.

• Two future presidents, John Adams (second president) and Thomas Jefferson (third president) signed. Both died on the 50th anniversary of the signing, July 4, 1826.


The Chinese invented fireworks some time between 960 and 1279 AD. The loud sounds and sparkling colors were thought to ward off evil spirits. They were used at important events such as Emperors' birthdays and other Chinese holidays.

In England, fireworks were used at birthday celebrations of kings and queens. Fireworks were first used to celebrate Independence Day on July 8, 1776, and again at the first official celebration in 1777.

July 4 was not declared an official federal holiday until 1941.

Each year, 213 pounds of fireworks are purchased in the U.S. and the annual fireworks industry revenue is $940 million, according to National Fire Protection Association.

Safety concerns

• In 2011, fireworks caused an estimated 17,800 reported fires, including 1,200 structure fires, 400 vehicle fires and 16,300 outside and other fires.

• In the same year, U.S. hospital emergency rooms saw an estimated 9,600 people for fireworks-related injuries.

• Half of the injuries were burns and a fourth were contusions and lacerations.

• One-quarter of the people injured were under the age of 15.

• Sparklers, fountains and novelties accounted for 34 percent of emergency room fireworks injuries in 2011.