Fourth of July Myths Debunked by National Geographic

Independence DayCan you name the three presidents that died on July 4th?  Did a 4th of July celebration really crack the Liberty Bell?  Was the Declaration of Independence really signed on July 4th?  National Geographic’s Brian Handwerk shares some interesting trivia / conversation fodder related to the anniversary of our nation’s founding.  Enjoy.

Many time-honored patriotic tales turn out to be more fiction than fact. In anticipation of the Fourth of July, here’s a look at some memorable myths from the birth of the United States.

1. The Declaration of Independence Was Signed on July 4

2. Paul Revere Rode Solo

3. July 4, 1776, Party Cracked the Liberty Bell

4. Patriots Flocked to Fight for Freedom

5. The Declaration of Independence Holds Secret Messages

6. John Adams Died Thinking of Thomas Jefferson

7. America United Against the British

8. Betsy Ross Made the First American Flag

9. Native Americans Sided With the British


Here’s a taste of the first one, but you’ll have to head over to National Geographic for the rest.


1. The Declaration of Independence Was Signed on July 4

Independence Day is celebrated two days too late. The Second Continental Congress voted for a Declaration of Independence on July 2, prompting John Adams to write his wife, “I am apt to believe that [July 2, 1776], will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival.”

Adams correctly foresaw shows, games, sports, buns, bells, and bonfires—but he got the date wrong. The written document wasn’t edited and approved until the Fourth of July, and that was the date printers affixed to “broadside” announcements sent out across the land. July 2 was soon forgotten.

(Related: “U.S. Independence Celebrated on the Wrong Day?”)

In fact, no one actually signed the Declaration of Independence at any time during July 1776. Signing began on August 2, with John Hancock’s famously bold scribble, and wasn’t completed until late November. 

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