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:
- History Now 64 (Fall 2022): New Light on the Declaration and Its Signers
- History Now 63 (Summer 2022): The Declaration of Independence and the Long Struggle for Equality in America
- History Now 61 (Fall 2021): The Declaration of Independence and the Origins of Self-Determination in the Modern World
- 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.
- 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
- “The Declaration of Independence”: Gain a clear understanding of the Declaration of Independence through reading and analyzing the original text like a detective looking for clues.
- “The Preamble to the US Constitution, the Pledge of Allegiance, and the Declaration of Independence”: Students will analyze three documents defining American democracy.
- “What Does Liberty Look Like?”: During the Revolutionary era, many saw an opportunity to test the boundaries of liberty. Students will explore several perspectives on liberty during this period.
- “America in Song”: Students will connect the history and significance of several of America’s most iconic songs: “The Star-Spangled Banner,” “Yankee Doodle,” “America the Beautiful,” and “America (My Country ’Tis of Thee).”