Sunday, September 25, 2022

SHOLEH: Ten for the Fourth

| June 30, 2022 1:00 AM

Got hot dogs?

With a long holiday weekend at hand, Americans are stocking up for the Fourth’s feasting, fireworks, festivities. Happy 246th birthday, America.

Before the fun begins, here’s a little history and a few tidbits:

1) The Declaration of Independence wasn’t signed on July 4, 1776. That’s when the Continental Congress formally adopted it. The vote on the resolution for independence occurred July 2 — the date John Adams thought we should celebrate, and for a while some Americans did. The document wasn’t fully executed and official until August.

2) Massachusetts was first to make Independence Day a state holiday in 1781. In 1870 it became a federal holiday.

3) The Fourth is also presidential; three died on July 4: Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and James Monroe.

4) Coolidge was born on the Fourth.

5) American Independence Day celebrations haven’t changed much. Outdoor picnics were popular in the 1800s, when historical accounts from the Federal Writers Project described “everyone loading their wagons with food” and heading into town for daylong fun.

6) Fireworks date to seventh-century China, which still makes most of them. According to the American Pyrotechnics Association and U.S. Census data, only 5% of fireworks used here are domestically produced. Most are imported from China, which manufactures the vast majority of the world’s fireworks.

7) Speaking of sparks, backyard fires have risen 40% since 2000. About half of related injuries are to children.

8) The National Hot Dog and Sausage Council estimates Americans consume 155 million hot dogs on the Fourth. We don’t know who invented them; ancient Greek literature describes meat sausages, such as in Homer’s famous Odyssey. Nor are we sure about the name; some stories suggest likening sausages to dachshunds, as in “dachshund sausages,” ergo dog, thus heated to become a “hot dog.” Unverified, but cute.

9) Prefer to skip the fillers? Follow President Adams’ family example with turtle soup and poached salmon. In parts of New England, salmon is still traditional, if not exactly picnic-worthy.

10) Given increasing wildfires and severe challenges to Western firefighters, Idahoans and others in summer fire regions are urged to skip the home varieties and stick to professional displays. The Fourth is when the most wildland fires begin, according to U.S. Forest Service and Department of Interior data. Between 1992 and 2015 these averaged more than 300 each July 4.

So have fun, but please, play safely.

“Equal and exact justice to all men … freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom of person under the protection of the habeas corpus; and trial by juries impartially selected, these principles form the bright constellation which has gone before us.” — Thomas Jefferson

Happy Fourth!

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Sholeh Patrick is a columnist for the Hagadone News Network. Email

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