5. Fourth of July

Detail from Nathaniel Currier, "The Declaration of Independence, July 4th 1776," ca. 1850. (The Gilder Lehrman Institute, GLC10045)The Fourth of July was unofficially celebrated in the United States until 1870 when, nearly a hundred years after the Declaration of Independence was written, Congress first declared July 4 a national holiday.

Spotlights on Primary Sources

Gilder Lehrman curators explain and explore documents from the Gilder Lehrman Collection.

History Now: The Journal

History Now, the online journal of the Gilder Lehrman Institute, features numerous essays on America’s founding era by leading historians. This includes David Waldstreicher’s “The Invention of the Fourth of July” as well as the following recent issues:


  • Inside the Vault: “Founding Era Propaganda”: Kevin Cline, 2016 Gilder Lehrman National History Teacher of the Year, joined the Institute’s curators to explore Paul Revere’s engraving depicting the Boston Massacre and Philip Dawe’s print “Bostonians Paying the Excise-man.”
  • Inside the Vault: “July Anniversaries”: Explore a rare South Carolina printing of the Declaration of Independence from 1776 and a soldier’s experience at the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863.

Online Exhibition

  • The American Revolution: An illustrated timeline beginning with the Treaty of Paris in 1763 and ending with Washington laying down his sword in 1783 with videos and images from the Gilder Lehrman Collection

Lesson Plans