We all harken back to the signing of the Declaration of Independence when we think about the history of our most patriotic of days. It has been a special and constant part of the rich lives of many of our residents since they were born, but some of them may remember it’s last major renovation in 1941. Our wonderful state of New York has played a role in the very earliest aspects of the establishment of Independence Day, and our respected residents have had the patriotic pleasure of watching our recognition of its anniversary change over the years.
In June of 1776, Congress appointed a committee of five men, one of whom was the state of New York’s Robert R. Livingston, to draft a document justifying the decision of the states to break away from Great Britain. The Continental Congress actually voted in favor of the resolution for independence on July 2nd, which some of our forefathers thought should be the rightful day of celebration. The vote of approval was nearly unanimous, but the delegation from New York abstained (although they later voted in favor). The July 4th date we all celebrate is actually the day the Declaration of Independence (largely written by Thomas Jefferson, and the resulting product of the justification document approved on the 2nd) was approved by the Continental Congress.
The celebrations started the very next year, first officially recognized when George Washington issued double rum rations to his troops in 1778 and when Massachusetts made it an official state holiday in 1781. It was declared a federal holiday in 1870, but it was not made a paid holiday for federal workers until the time of some of our residents in 1941. July 4th, 1941, rolled around just after Germany’s invasion of Russian, their largest military operation of a war already underway. Five months and three days later, the United States would enter that war, and the world would be forever changed. There’s no doubt that the 4th of July celebration that year, and for all years thereafter, held an additional level of significance for our residents and for our entire country.