(WHTM) — It’s the nation’s birthday, which we’ve celebrated for 246 years. Back in 1776, The United States, which wasn’t even officially named the United States yet, was not a very big place. The total area of the 13 colonies put together was about 430,000 square miles out of Earth’s total land area of 57,268,900 square miles — about three-quarters of one percent. The Declaration of Independence went pretty much unnoticed in the remaining 99.25%.
It’s better known today.
And of course, July 4, 1776, was not the first Fourth of July ever to happen. So here are some events that took place in many places around the world, on many July fourths before and after 1776. It’s worth noting a lot of events that happened in the United States happened because hey, it’s the Fourth of July. And don’t expect everything on this list to be joy and happiness. After all, we’re talking human history here.
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1054: The brightest known supernova, now cataloged as SN 1054, was first reported by Chinese astronomers. The supernova created what is now known as the Crab Nebula.
1187: Battle of Hattin (Tiberias): Saladin, First Sultan of Egypt and Syrba, defeated a Crusader army of 20,000. Over the next few months, Saladin captured 52 towns and fortifications, and the Crusader states of the Middle East began their slide into oblivion. Acre, the last Crusader stronghold, fell in 1291.
1534: Christian III was elected King of Denmark and Norway in the town of Rye. He would bring the Protestant Reformation to the two countries, establishing Lutheranism as the state religion.
1610: At the Battle of Klushino during the Polish–Russian War of 1609–1618, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth forces of King Sigismund III trounced a Russian-Swedish force. The Commonwealth Army took Moscow in 1610, got shoved back out in 1612, and the war guttered out with a truce in 1618, leaving behind bad feelings between Poles and Russians that persist to this day.
1636: The city of Providence, Rhode Island, was founded by Roger Williams, who had been exiled from the Massachusetts Bay Colony. He named the area in honor of “God’s merciful Providence,” which he felt directed him and his followers to a safe haven.
1754: George Washington surrendered a hastily built stockade, Fort Necessity, to French forces. This event helped trigger the French and Indian War. (The fort, located near Farmington, PA, is now a National Park.)
1782: William Petty became Prime Minister of Great Britain following the death of Charles Watson-Wentworth. He only held the office for a little over a year, but during that time he negotiated the Treaty of Paris that ended the Revolutionary War. (One of the reasons he got booted from office was anger over the generous terms he offered the Americans.)
1785: At a meeting of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, geologist James Hutton presented his theory of uniformitarianism, which states Earth’s geologic changes can be explained by slow gradual processes — and that Earth is a lot older than people thought. Hutton is considered the father of modern geography.
1789: President George Washington signed the First U.S. tariff act, which helped fund the federal government and protect developing industries in the United States.
1802: At the site of a fort built during the Revolutionary War, the United States’ First Military Academy opened at West Point, New York.
1803: President Thomas Jefferson announced one of the biggest real estate deals of all time — the Louisiana Purchase.
1817: Construction began on the Erie Canal at Rome, New York. When completed, it stretched 363 miles between Albany and Buffalo, New York. It sparked a canal-building boom, which went bust in a few decades with the coming of the railroads.
1826: Past presidents Thomas Jefferson and John Adams both died on the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.
1827: The state of New York abolished slavery.
1828: Construction began on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. The “B&O” was the first passenger railroad in the United States.
1831: The song “America (My Country ‘Tis of Thee)” was performed for the first time in Boston, Massachusetts. The tune was not original, but then neither was the tune for “The Star-Spangled Banner”.
1837: The Grand Junction Railway opened, running between the cities of Birmingham and Liverpool in England. At 82 miles long, it was the world’s first long-distance railway. It was phenomenally successful, cutting travel time between the cities to a mere nine hours.
1845: Henry David Thoreau moved into a simple cabin alongside Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts. He lived there for two years and wrote a book about it.
1855: Walt Whitman published his book of poems, “Leaves of Grass.”
1862: Charles Dodgson, an Oxford mathematician better known by his pen name Lewis Carroll, spun a fanciful tale for Alice Liddell during a family boat trip. He wrote a short version of the story, “Alice’s Adventures Underground,” which he later expanded into a longer book, “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” that was published in 1865 (also on July 4).
1863: In a one-two punch to the Confederacy, General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia began its retreat after being defeated in the Battle of Gettysburg. That same day, Vicksburg, Mississippi, surrendered to Union forces commanded by Ulysses S. Grant after a month-long siege.
1866: A massive fire destroyed a large section of Portland, Maine. At the time it was the largest fire to ever strike an American city. It’s believed to have been started by a stray firecracker.
1868: Battle at Ueno, Japan, part of The Boshin War, also called the Japanese Revolution or Japanese Civil War: On one side, supporters of the ruling Tokugawa shogunate; on the other, supporters of the imperial court. Ueno ended in defeat for the Tokugawa armies, and on June 27, 1869, the last shogunate forces surrendered.
1868: Maori leader Te Kooti and 300 of his followers captured the schooner Rifleman in the Chatham Islands and sailed for New Zealand. They landed at Whareongaonga six days later. (For more about the “Te-Kootis War,” click here.)
1881: Booker T. Washington established the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama.
1884: France presented the Statue of Liberty to the United States in Paris. It took a couple of years to transport the statue in pieces and assemble it in New York Harbor. The statue was dedicated on October 28, 1886.
1892: Samoa moved the International Date Line in their country. This change meant they had 367 days that year, with two occurrences of Monday, July 4. (The main reason for this was so they would be in sync with their main trading partner, the United States. In 2011, with their primary trading partners shifting to New Zealand and Australia, they switched back.)
1894: The Republic of Hawaii was proclaimed following the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom and deposition of Queen Liliʻuokalani in 1893. The “Republic” existed for the sole purpose of getting Hawaii annexed by the United States, which occurred in 1898. In 1993, Congress passed and the President signed an Apology Resolution declaring “the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii occurred with the active participation of agents and citizens of the United States and […] the Native Hawaiian people never directly relinquished to the United States their claims to their inherent sovereignty as a people over their national lands, either through the Kingdom of Hawaii or through a plebiscite or referendum.”
1895: Wellesley College English Professor Katherine Lee Bates published “America the Beautiful.” The poem was set to music composed by church organist and choirmaster Samuel A. Ward. The two never actually met.
1902: Civil government was established in the Philippines by a proclamation from President Theodore Roosevelt, who offered a general amnesty to insurgents. The backstory — the Philippines had been a Spanish colony for 300 years. On June 12, 1898, Filipino rebels led by Emilio Aguinaldo declared independence. Since it was the middle of the Spanish-American War, Americans were only too happy to help the Filipinos eject the last Spanish forces. Then America annexed the country, which did not go down well with the Filipinos, and a new revolt began against the Americans. It took three years to “pacify” the Philippines so Roosevelt could make the proclamation. (Keep scrolling down, the story continues…)
1918: Sultan Mehmed VI ascended to the throne of the Ottoman Empire. It was, however, an empire coming apart at the seams. On November 1, 1922, the sultanate was abolished and Mehmed was expelled. He lived in exile in Italy until he died in 1926. From the Ottoman Empire would rise the modern Turkish republic.
1934: Hungarian physicist Leo Szilard, who had fled Nazi Germany and was living in England, patented the chain-reaction design for the atomic bomb.
1946: The Philippines gained its independence from the United States. This was the culmination of a process that began in the 1930s with the Tydings-McDuffie Law. The Philippines became a commonwealth, with a government that steered them through a 10-year transition period, after which the Phillippines became an independent nation on July 4 the next year. Amazingly, things stayed on schedule, even through the Japanese occupation during World War II.
1950: On July 3, Harry Truman signed the Puerto Rico Federal Relations Act of 1950, which enabled the people of Puerto Ricans to write their own constitution. It was’t widely reported until the next day, which is why some people think it happened on July 4. But it’s pretty important, so I’m leaving it in.
1954: Nine years after the end of World War II, food rationing officially ended in Britain.
1966: President Lyndon Baines Johnson signed the Freedom of Information Act. The act requires full or partial disclosure of unreleased information and documents controlled by the United States government upon request. It was strengthened in 1974 following the Watergate hearings.
1972: The remnants of Hurricane Agnes, which had been meandering across the Atlantic since leaving the east coast of the United States, crossed the Hebrides in Scotland.
2004: In a symbolic ceremony, the cornerstone of the Freedom Tower was laid on the site of the World Trade Center in New York City. (Actual construction did not start for several more weeks.)
2009: The Statue of Liberty’s crown reopened to the public after being closed for eight years following the World Trade Center attacks.
2012: Scientists at CERN’s (Organisation européenne pour la recherche nucléaire) Large Hadron Particle Collider announced the discovery of a new particle “consistent with” the Higgs boson, sometimes called the “God particle” to the intense annoyance of physicists.
2021: In an article published by the journal Human Evolution. researchers revealed there are 14 living male descendants of the line that includes famed Italian artist Leonardo da Vinci. The artist never had any children but did have 22 half brothers on his paternal side.