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18 Interesting Pictures of Fourth of July Celebrations from the Past

Vintage Photos | July 3, 2016

We celebrate American Independence Day on the Fourth of July every year. We think of July 4, 1776, as a day that represents the Declaration of Independence and the birth of the United States of America as an independent nation.

But July 4, 1776 wasn't the day that the Continental Congress decided to declare independence (they did that on July 2, 1776).

It wasn’t the day we started the American Revolution either (that had happened back in April 1775).

And it wasn't the day Thomas Jefferson wrote the first draft of the Declaration of Independence (that was in June 1776). Or the date on which the Declaration was delivered to Great Britain (that didn't happen until November 1776). Or the date it was signed (that was August 2, 1776).

So what did happen on July 4, 1776?

The Continental Congress approved the final wording of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. They'd been working on it for a couple of days after the draft was submitted on July 2nd and finally agreed on all of the edits and changes.

July 4, 1776, became the date that was included on the Declaration of Independence, and the fancy handwritten copy that was signed in August (the copy now displayed at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.) It’s also the date that was printed on the Dunlap Broadsides, the original printed copies of the Declaration that were circulated throughout the new nation.

So when people thought of the Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776 was the date they remembered.

Bicycle riders in parade on the Fourth of July at Vale, Ore, circa 1941.
Vintage Fourth of July (1)

Photo: (Library of Congress)

Revelers enjoy a rather subdued Fourth of July parade in New York, circa 1911.
Vintage Fourth of July (2)

Photo: (Library of Congress)

A group of children plays with sparklers in 1940 after Fourth of July celebrations.
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Photo: (Keystone View/FPG/Getty Images)

Men wearing period costumes participate in a Fourth of July parade in 1911 in New York.
Vintage Fourth of July (4)

Photo: (Library of Congress)

Three boys dressed as a patriotic band celebrate Independence Day on July 4th, in the 1940s.
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Photo: (Bert Garai/Keystone View/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Fourth of July celebrations take place in 1939 near Chapel Hill, N.C. The men in the baseball suits are on a local team slated to play a game nearby.
Vintage Fourth of July (6)

Photo: (Library of Congress)

A Fourth of July parade is held in New York with little girls marching in festive white dresses.
Vintage Fourth of July (7)

Photo: (Library of Congress)

Two revelers, sporting Native American headdresses and playing instruments, enjoy a Fourth of July parade in New York in 1911.
Vintage Fourth of July (8)

Photo: (Library of Congress)

A very young American enjoys a snooze in his pram while attending American Independence Day celebrations in London with his serviceman father.
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Photo: (Terry Fincher/Keystone/Getty Images)

Spectators watch a baseball match intently on Stamford Bridge, July 4, 1918.
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Photo: (A. R. Coster/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

Central Hall is decorated with the 'stars and stripes' during a meeting on July 4, 1918. One of the speakers pictured include Winston Churchill when he was Minister of Munitions.
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Photo: (A. R. Coster/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

American soldiers driving through the streets rest during Fourth of July celebrations on July 4, 1918.
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Photo: (Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

Soldiers ride in carriages through the streets during Fourth of July celebrations.
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Photo: (Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

A group convenes at a meeting in Central Hall, London, which is decorated all around with American flags.
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Photo: (A. R. Coster/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

Tall sailing ships sit on display at a pier for the American Bicentennial celebration on July 4, 1976.
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Photo: (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Men and women in 18th century costumes wave from atop a Liberty Bell float during an American Bicentennial parade on July 4, 1976.
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Photo: (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Parade at the July 4th celebration, Ashville, Ohio July 4th, 1938.
Vintage Fourth of July (17)

Photo: (Library of Congress)

Throngs of people take part in a Fourth of July parade, early 1900s.
Vintage Fourth of July (18)

Photo: (Library of Congress)

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