After years of pent-up frustration, the colonies let loose upon hearing the words of the Declarations of Independence in 1776. Military personnel and civilians in the Bowling Green section of Manhattan tore down a statue of King George III and later melted it into bullets. In Philadelphia the King’s coat of arms was used as kindling for a bonfire. In Savannah, Georgia the citizens “burnt" the King in effigy and held a mock funeral for their royal foe.
Independence Day celebrations began to look a bit more familiar the following year, as the July 18, 1777 issue of the Virginia Gazette describes the July 4th celebration in Philadelphia:
“The evening was closed with the ringing of bells, and at night there was a grand exhibition of fireworks, which began and concluded with thirteen rockets on the commons, and the city was beautifully illuminated. Everything was conducted with the greatest order and decorum, and the face of joy and gladness was universal.”
There were even ships decked out in patriotic colors lining harbors and streamers littering city streets.
Billed as “America’s Oldest Fourth of July Celebration,” the town of Bristol, Rhode Island, has been doing Independence Day right since 1785.
The festivities began just two years after the Revolutionary War ended, and 2019 will be its 234th entry. Over the years the whole thing has expanded well beyond July 4th; the town of 23,000 residents now begins to celebrate the United States on Flag Day on June 14, all the way through to the 2.5 mile July 4th parade. What began as a “patriotic exercise” —meaning church services—has morphed into a cavalcade of parades, live music, food, and other activities.
Everyone likes to enjoy the fireworks on the 4th of July and according to the American Pyrotechnics Association, around 15,000 fireworks displays will take place for the 4th of July holiday (even if some aren’t exactly on July 4th). Though pricing varies, most small towns spend anywhere from $8,000—$15,000 for a fireworks display, with larger cities going into the millions, like the Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular that averages more than $2 million.