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Washington DC Fourth of July

In all the festivities associated with the Washington, DC Fourth of July celebrations, Americans sometimes forget the history surrounding the date. The Fourth of July commemorates the ratification of the Declaration of Independence which serves as this Nation's official certificate of birth. Interestingly, the Declaration was actually ratified on the the second of July, not the fourth, 1776).

According to researcher Kenneth Davis, as early as 1676, a man named Nathaniel Bacon wrote the "Declaration of the People." This document criticized the British for levying unfair taxes, placing favorites in high positions and not protecting the western farmers from Indians. Americans boycotted the taxes; the British sent in troops. What ensued was the Boston massacre, which turned out to be the beginning of the end of British rule. The first to die was Crispus Attucks, a black American.

In 1773, the colonists decided the British would not monopolize and tax the sale of any one item, such as tea. On the night of December 16th, men from all ranks of society clandestinely boarded three, tea-filled Royal Navy ships and dumped cases and cases of tea into the harbor (the Boston Tea Party). Shortly thereafter, the Revolutionary War began and when America won the War, (and after the ratification of the Declaration of Independence) it was deemed a glorious occasion worthy of an annual celebration. John Adams - one of the authors of the Declaration of Independence - said: "I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance; it ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more."

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· Poetry
· Smithsonian Folklife Festival
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Washington DC Fourth of July - History of the Fireworks

It would be hard to imagine ending Independence Day celebrations without the lighting of the night sky with bright, colorful fireworks. It seems every town in our nation puts on its own production this timeof year, yet none can touch the grand display in Washington, DC. The use of fireworks in celebration is no American phenomenon. Chinese used fireworks in celebrations before Westerners had developed Christianity, let alone dreamed of the country whose birthday we commemorate July 4. Read More

Washington DC Fourth of July - Events in Washington, DC

Looking for somewhere to celebrate your independence besides down on the Mall in Washington DC? Find out where all the happy hours, concerts, fairs, parties, and other great events in the Washington DC area by visiting our Fourth of July Events Calendar. Click on a date below and you will be taken to event listings for that day. Read More

Washington DC Fourth of July - Fun Gifts for the Family

Visit our gift shop where you can peruse dozens of Washington, D.C. related items and gift ideas. Need to find something educational? No problem. Something for sheer entertainment? No problem. We carry all manner of gifts which will entertain, enlighten and encourage awareness in the general public on many topics and about one of our great country's (some would say most important and revered) federal holidays' of celebration. In our shop we have many unique gifts of interest to just about everyone (regardless of age or budget) that will entertain and educate citizens from all walks of life about the rich history of the Nation's Capital: Washington, D.C. Read More

Washington DC Fourth of July - Smithsonian Folklife Festival

Every summer since 1967 the National Mall becomes possessed by Folklife fever as thousands of people throng the nation's front lawn for the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. The Festival, which normally starts at the end of June and goes on for about 10 days, unlocks a hidden passageway that transports visitors into smaller versions of communities that sustain Folklife as designed by the Smithsonian. Read More

Washington DC Fourth of July - Patriotic Poetry and Writings

The British Are Coming
Light up for Liberty

Washington DC Fourth of July - National Park Service Picnic Guidelines

There is NO parking around the National Mall. The Park Service strongly recommends using the metro. The National Park Service recommends bringing plenty of fluids and sunscreen (SPF 45) with you when visiting the National Mall. The tends to be very hot with high humidity. Most first aid cases are heat related. Read More

Washington DC Fourth of July Fireworks Map

Washington DC Fireworks Map

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CLICK HERE to view our FREE printable version of this map in JPEG Format.

Washington DC Fourth of July Photo Galleries

Images help us remember special days and events. Come along on our journey as we capture memorable times and places in our Photo Galleries.

2009 Fourth of July Fireworks - Montgomery College, Rockville, Maryland 2009 Fourth of July Fireworks - Montgomery College, Rockville, Maryland
This is an extremely fun, family-friendly alternative to the monster crowds on the National Mall and a lot easier to access. Parking is available on Route 355 (Rockville Pike) or all along Mannakee Street; considered to be the "back" of Montgomery College. For the 2009 Fourth of July Celebration, the entertainment lineup was the band Redline at 7 p.m. on the campus stage, the Fugitive Brass Quintet at 7 p.m., and the Rockville Concert Band at 8 p.m. Both the Fugitive Brass Quintet and the Rockville Concert Band will be performing at the football stadium stage. At 8:45 p.m. Mayor Hoffmann and the City Council welcome the crowd and kick-off Rockville's Census 2010 outreach efforts.
2006 Fourth of July Celebration. 2006 Washington DC Fourth of July Celebration
Fast moving storms with lightning, hail, and strong winds fell upon a hot and humid National Mall during the Fourth of July. But skies soon cleared, and the Independence day celebration continued throughout the night. The sprawling lands of the National Mall & Memorial Parks include the Mall, the public promenade extending from 3rd Street near the Capitol to 14th Street. The National Mall is the continuation of that space where congressionally authorized park icons, such as the Washington Monument, WWII and Lincoln Memorials stand.
2005 Fourth of July Celebration. 2005 Washington DC Fourth of July Celebration
Washington DC is a spectacular place to celebrate July 4th! Independence Day celebrations in the nation's capital start with a morning parade along Constitution Avenue from 7th to 17th Street, NW Washington, DC. The Parade includes bands, military and specialty units, floats, and VIP's. In the evening, enjoy one of America's largest fireworks displays over the reflecting pool on the National Mall while listening to a PBS Concert of the National Symphony Orchestra.
2004 Fourth of July Celebration. 2004 Washington DC Fourth of July Celebration
There may have been torrential rains this Fourth of July on the Capitol, but that didn't stop many metropolitan area residents and out of towners from coming down to the Mall for the annual celebration. Though there was a rumor of cancellations due to inclement weather, people toughed it out. Finding shelter in overhangs or braving the rains with umbrellas and rain ponchos these families and friends enjoyed the company of good food, bands, and most importantly fireworks!
2001 Fourth of July Celebration 2001 Washington DC Fourth of July Celebration
There may be bigger fireworks displays around the United States, but without a doubt the place to be is in D.C. on the National Mall (or as it is officially called by the U.S. National Park Service, "The National Mall & Memorial Parks"). Nowhere else in this great country can compare with the grandeur of the setting you're surrounded by when witnessing the fireworks on the National Mall whether you're on the Washington Monument grounds or "all the way back" at the Lincoln Memorial: you are guaranteed a great view of the pyrotechnic show.
2000 Fourth of July Celebration 2000 Washington DC Fourth of July Celebration
Washington, D.C.'s National Mall is such an accommodating location to watch the Fourth of July fireworks for myriad reasons; here are just a couple: people come from all around the National Capital Region (which now includes Baltimore), tourists come from all over the country and the world, and D.C. is such a diversified melting pot of cultures, nationalities and personalities it's a joy just to walk around and meet people from different backgrounds and countries. Furthermore, the National Mall is massive: 309 acres (!) and from just the vantage point of the Lincoln Memorial steps one is treated to a view of the Reflecting Pool, the Washington Monument and U.S. Capitol, among others'.
Fourth of July Gift Store.

Why the Fourth?

Though the Fourth of July is iconic to Americans, some claim the date itself is somewhat arbitrary. New Englanders had been fighting Britain since April 1775. The first motion in the Continental Congress for independence was made on June 4, 1776. After hard debate, the Congress voted unanimously (discounting New York's courteous abstention), but secretly, for independence from Great Britain on July 2 (the Lee Resolution) and appointed Thomas Jefferson to write a draft. The Congress reworked the draft until a little after eleven o’clock, July 4, when twelve colonies voted for adoption (New York again courteously abstaining) and released a copy to the printers signed only by John Hancock, President of the Congress, and Secretary Charles Thomson. Philadelphia celebrated the Declaration with public readings and bonfires on July 8. Not until August 2 would a fair printing be signed by the members of the Congress, but even that was kept secret to protect the members from possible British reprisals.

John Adams, credited by Thomas Jefferson as the unofficial, tireless whip of the independence-minded, wrote to his wife Abigail on July 3, 1776:

"The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more."

Adams was off by two days, however. Certainly, the vote on July 2 was the decisive act. But July 4 is the date that Jefferson's stirring prose, as edited by the Congress, was officially adopted and was the first day Philadelphians heard any concrete news of independence from the Continental Congress, as opposed to rumors in the street about secret votes.


  • In 1777, thirteen guns were fired, once at morning and again as evening fell, on July 4 in Bristol, Rhode Island. Philadelphia celebrated the first anniversary in a manner a modern American would find quite familiar: an official dinner for the Continental Congress, toasts, 13-gun salutes, speeches, prayers, music, parades, troop reviews, and fireworks. Ships were decked with red, white, and blue bunting.

  • In 1778, General George Washington marked the Fourth of July with a double ration of rum for his soldiers and an artillery salute. Across the Atlantic Ocean, ambassadors John Adams and Benjamin Franklin held a dinner for their fellow Americans in Paris, France.

  • In 1779, July 4 fell on a Sunday. The holiday was celebrated on Monday, July 5.

  • In 1781, Massachusetts was the first legislature to recognize the Fourth of July.

  • In 1783, Moravians in Salem, North Carolina, held the first celebration of the Fourth of July in the country with a challenging music program assembled by Johann Friedrich Peter. This work was titled "The Psalm of Joy".

  • In 1791 was the first recorded use of the name "Independence Day".

  • In 1870, the U.S. Congress made Independence Day an unpaid holiday for federal employees.

  • In 1941, Congress changed Independence Day to a paid federal holiday. The residents of Vicksburg, Mississippi, celebrated the Fourth of July for the first time since July 4, 1863, when the Siege of Vicksburg ended with a Union victory during the American Civil War.
  • Washington DC Fourth of July Almanac

    Memorial Day in Washington, DC
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