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Independence Day, past and present: By the numbers


In 1776, a piece of parchment signed by 56 men initiated an annual celebration marked by beer, hot dogs, and hundreds of millions of pounds of fireworks

The Fourth of July wasn’t always dominated by burgers on the grill and explosions in the sky, though the colorful celebrations we enjoy today were forecasted by at least one founding father. On July 3, 1776, the day before the Continental Congress formally adopted the Declaration of Independence, John Adams wrote a letter to his wife saying the historic day should be celebrated with “pomp and parade… bonfires and illuminations… from one end of the continent to the other.” Here, a look back at the numbers behind that fateful July in 1776, and July 4 as we celebrate it today:

Men who signed the Declaration of Independence in the summer of 1776, after America’s second Continental Congress voted to secede from England

Inches taken up by John Hancock’s famously enormous signature on the 24-1/4-inch by 29-3/4-inch piece of parchment

Signed copies of the original Declaration of Independence, which was engrossed on parchment, kept at the National Archives building in Washington, D.C.

Paper copies of the Declaration of Independence produced in 1776 that are still in existence

Copies owned by American institutions

Copies owned by British institutions

Copies in the possession of private owners

$8.1 million
Price that one copy sold for in a 2000 auction

Full list at The Week.

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