Independence Day is celebrated in the United States to honor the Declaration of Independence, which is dated July 4, 1776. Alt hough the U.S. declared independence on July 2, July 4 is the date list ed on the Declaration, thus American Independence Day.
Congress declared July 4 a national holiday in 1870, the first government-sanctioned celebration of Independence Day. Alt hough Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and Benjamin Franklin contend that they signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, most historians argue that the document was not signed until August 2, 1776. The general academic consensus is that it was not signed until August.
Before recognition by Congress in 1870, Independence Day celebrations had already occurred as part of folk culture. The Bristol Fourth of July Parade in Bristol, R.I., first occurred in 1785 and is the oldest continuous Independence Day celebration. Notable celebrations after 1870 include Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest held in Coney Island in Brooklyn, N.Y. since 1972. The Macy's Independence Day fireworks display has been televised by NBC since 1976. Macy's display has been held over both the East River and Hudson River. The Boston Pops Orchestra held the Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular every year since 1973. The Fireworks Spectacular culminates with a fireworks display over the Charles River.