With the cancelation or postponement of public fireworks displays and traditional parades in recognition of the 4th of July this year, celebrations and displays are going to take place closer to home. Click here to find consumer fireworks and safety information, including what’s legal and what’s not in Minnesota.
History of Independence Day
The Fourth of July, also known as Independence Day, has been a federal holiday in the U.S. since 1941. The tradition of celebrating the day, however, is nearly as old as the country itself.
On July 2, 1776, the Continental Congress voted in favor of independence from Great Britain, and two days later, delegates from the 13 colonies adopted the Declaration of Independence, drafted by Thomas Jefferson. America was still in the midst of the Revolutionary War and had not yet won its independence, but July 4 has been commemorated as “America's birthday” since the 18th century.
The end of the Revolutionary War would not come until the 1780s and was spurred by the British surrender at the Battle of Yorktown. British General Charles Cornwallis led his troops to a port in British-occupied Yorktown, Virginia, expecting aid in the form of the arrival of British ships, sent from New York. But those ships never arrived, thanks to the French joining forces with America. The French navy kept British ships from entering through the York River or the Chesapeake Bay, and French General Jean-Baptiste Rochambeau and George Washington led 17,000 troops to surround Yorktown. The Franco-American siege exhausted the British army's supply of food and ammunition, and with no hope of victory, Cornwallis agreed to Washington's Articles of Capitulation, signing the document on Oct. 19, 1781.
Fighting did not formally end until 1783, but with the surrender at Yorktown, Great Britain had given up any chance of winning the Revolutionary War, effectively securing an American victory. Since 1776, July 4 has been celebrated as the birth of American independence, with festivities ranging from fireworks, parades and concerts to family gatherings and backyard barbeques.