The Fourth of July is the nation’s birthday. It is also parades, fireworks, speeches, music, baseball games, picnics and hot dogs all wrapped up in red, white and blue.
* The Fourth is the day in 1776 that the American Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence, severing the colonies’ political ties to Great Britain. Thomas Jefferson wrote the bold statement, and John Hancock’s signature is the largest on the page. But in defying the most powerful empire on Earth, all 56 signers of the Declaration pledged to one another their lives, their fortunes and their “sacred honor.”
* Around that same time, Betsy Ross, the owner of a small upholstery business in Philadelphia, was asked by a congressional committee headed by George Washington to sew a new American flag. Washington knew Ross from a church they both attended.
* It’s hard to get through the Fourth of July weekend without hearing a John Philip Sousa march being played somewhere. Sousa composed more than 130 marches during his long career, including “The Stars and Stripes Forever,” “The Washington Post” and “Semper Fidelis.” He was born in Washington, D.C., in 1854, the child of immigrant parents. His father was a trombonist in the U.S. Marine Band. In 1880, the younger Sousa assumed leadership of the U.S. Marine Band, a position he held for the next 12 years. In 1892, Sousa organized his civilian concert band, which he led until his death in 1932.
* The Fourth of July is also a dangerous holiday. About 7,000 to 11,000 people are treated for fireworks-related injuries over the holiday every year. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, about 2,000 of those are eye injuries. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission strongly recommends leaving fireworks to the professionals. The Los Angeles Fire Department has again set up fireworks hotlines for residents to learn where and when professional fireworks displays will be in their area: (818) 786-5170 or (213) 626-2871.