On the night of July 4, 1776, the second Continental Congress, consisting of representatives from the 13 British colonies in North America, already engaged in conducting a war of independence from colonial bondage, and creating a new independent government, completed the document formalizing their “Declaration of Independence” from Great Britain. After it was completed and signed, it was read aloud for all the people who gathered in front of the Continental Congress building in Philadelphia.

Happy 4th of July! © Depositphotos

Happy 4th of July! © Depositphotos | Marina Riley

This document is credited as the first in history to proclaim the principal of public sovereignty as the basis of a state system, and rejected the theory of the divine origin of authority that was fashionable for governments at that time. It claimed the right to revolt and to overthrow a despotic government, and proclaimed the basic ideas of democracy – equality and inalienable rights of “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness” for all people.

The Declaration of Independence became a challenge and a danger to the 56 colonists who signed it: five were shot by the British for treason; nine died from wounds received during the War of Independence. Many lost their families and property. Two of the primary authors of this document, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, coincidentally died on the Fourth of July 50 years after they signed the Declaration.

John Adams, who became the second president of the U.S., once predicted that the Declaration would be the nation’s “salvation,” felt it should be celebrated in a big way: with parades, concerts, baseball games, competitions and bonfires. He insisted that this holiday should be for everyone and that each citizen of the United States should participate in the celebration. Americans followed his advice gladly: American housewives traditionally fill their picnic tables with steaks, burgers, potato salad, hot dogs, chips, corn and beans.

There are also regional differences in celebrating Independence Day. For example, in Lititz, Pennsylvania, the whole winter is dedicated to manufacturing candles to make a candle festival on Independence Day. In Seward, Alaska, celebrants hike to the top of Mount Marathon. In Tecumseh, Nebraska, two hundreds flags are hung at the courthouse in honor of Tecumseh’s citizens who have served in the armed forces.

At Depositphotos, Independence Day is one of our favorite holidays. We start preparing for it beforehand, just like the citizens of Lititz. Our preparation may not include the manufacture of candles or even involve buying picnic food. We carefully select the best photographs, illustrations and vector images to include in the Independence Day lightbox. Please check it out, and we’ll go get some fireworks while you browse!

International patriotism © Depositphotos

International patriotism © Depositphotos | Arumugam Prabhu 

July 4th cupcakes and decorations. © Depositphotos

July 4th cupcakes and decorations. © Depositphotos | Rosemary Buffoni

Family in living room on fourth of July with flags and cookies s © Depositphotos

Family in living room on fourth of July with flags and cookies s © Depositphotos | Monkey Business

4th Of July Hotdog Meal © Depositphotos

4th Of July Hotdog Meal © Depositphotos | B D 

Family at front door on fourth of July with flags and cookies sm © Depositphotos

Family at front door on fourth of July with flags and cookies sm © Depositphotos | Monkey Business