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The British Are Coming

The British are still invading. No, not the Redcoats the Patriots fought for years in the American Revolution whose victory we celebrate this Independence Day. Not even the Beatles and the other rock 'n' rollers who changed American musical tastes in the 1960s. The British coming these days are bolstering our economy by spending their dollars -- or pounds -- in their former colonies and added states. About 2.3 million Brits visited this country as tourists in 1995, the latest year for which figures a re available, according to the Census Bureau. Only our adversary in a more recent war, Japan, sent more individuals to U.S. shores that year. And our ally in both wars, France, sent 700,000 visitors, the fifth largest total.

Our mother country also ranks fourth as a trading partner with the U.S., accounting for $11.5 billion in trade in just the first two months of this year, according to 4th of July statistics released by the Census Bureau. Americans evidently have gotten o ver the British tea tax that caused us to dump boatloads into the harbor at the celebrated Boston Tea Party. Last year, we bought $5.6 million worth of tea from the British, making the U.K. our sixth largest foreign source of tea. And if you enjoy an iced tea to cool off this holiday, it might not be the only holiday accouterment that comes from abroad on this most Yankee of days. We imported $710,000 worth of American flags made overseas last year. Most of it ($566,000) came from Taiwan. And the fireworks you see may have come from abroad. We brought $93 million in decorative explosives from overseas last year, almost all of it ($89.9 million worth) from China.

And while most of the British who come these days go home, many who cross the border from the South want to stay. It's far from exclusively natives who will celebrate Independence Day on U.S. soil. Half of our foreign-born residents (13.1 million) came f rom the Americas, with about 25% of the total (7 million) coming across the Rio Grande directly from Mexico.

And if you choose to celebrate the day in Washington, DC, don't think you're in the only American town named after a hero of the revolution. While 32 states include a town named Washington, Ben Franklin won honors in more states than the leader of our re volutionary armed forces and first president. Thirty-seven incorporated places in the country call themselves Franklin. Thomas Jefferson comes in third, with his name enshrined in 26 places; while John, John Quincy or another Adams earned such honor with 14 named municipalities. Six towns bear the John Hancock of John Hancock (or at least his surname), while three towns carry the torch of Paul Revere. Additionally, 27 towns take the name Liberty, 10 Independence, 4 Freedom, 2 Colonial, and don't forget Patriot, IN.

And the cities that earned immortality by hosting some of the war's celebrated events have found added enduring fame by becoming the name of other towns. The nation includes 19 incorporated places calling themselves Lexington and 13 Concord. Add to these 6 Philadelphias, 4 Bunker Hills and 3 Yorktowns. (Figures include towns with added words in the name, such as Lexington-Fayette, KY and North Adams, MA.)


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