In signing the Declaration of Independence, the Founding Fathers imagined a new land that promoted life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Yet for all their vision, they could never have imagined America on July 4, 2015: the home of fireworks, traffic jams, and the pursuit of hot dogs.
Likewise, is it possible in this day and age that John Hancock would use a finger to scrawl his definitive moniker on an iPad? Or that Paul Revere would've ditched the midnight ride for an app-based alert on Waze? It's impossible to determine the odds.
But other numbers surrounding the July 4 holiday are in plentiful supply, and we've rounded them up here. So let's go: Fuel up the car, pass the ketchup, and find the closest picnic for chowing down. (Even if you weren't invited, maybe it'll be too large for anyone to notice.)
Gas Price: At Least $2.80 a Gallon
Gas prices have driven the yo-yo expressway over the last two months, pulling away from those oh-so-low levels at the beginning of the year. But you can't complain too much, as the price is still down 24% over this time last year ($3.68), according to AAA.
Of course, the price you'll pay depends a lot on where you live, as California continues to lead the nation at $3.53, which even beats Hawaii at $3.34. Of course, this is all subject to the whims of the oil moguls, or other forces. As of press time, Indiana's gas prices had shot up 28 cents over one week — a result of refinery issues, AAA reports.
Consumer Fireworks Going Up in Smoke: 181.4 Million Pounds
While Americans had solidly averaged about 180 million pounds of fireworks purchases per year, the number shot up in 2014 to nearly 202 million. The folks at the American Pyrotechnics Association estimate that in any given year, 90% of fireworks purchased go towards celebrating the 4th of July. So assuming the 2014 stats hold, we're looking at the above figure, which unfortunately doesn't tally the number of boneheads lighting cherry bombs in your alley at 3 am.
The First 4th of July Celebration at the White House: 1801
Stars and stripes indeed: a White House celebration led by one of the original signers of the Declaration of Independence. President Thomas Jefferson led the festivities and threw the mansion doors open to all. (Just imagine that today.) Tables pushed against the walls of the State Dining Room were filled with bowls of punch and plates of sweets, according to the White House Historical Organization. Remarkably, the north grounds of the President's Park hosted horse races and cockfights — not all that different from what goes on at Capitol Hill today.
Start of the Nation's Oldest Celebration: 1785
It seems fitting that the nation's oldest fete is in the nation's smallest state. The celebration in Bristol, Rhode Island, which hits the 230-year mark, was started by Rev. Henry Wight of Bristol's First Congregational Church. A Harvard graduate and Revolutionary War veteran, Wight originated what were known as "Patriotic Exercises" that focused on remembering, honoring, and celebrating the sacrifices of his fellow veterans.
Today, the July 4 festivities culminate with Bristol's Military, Civic, and Firemen's Parade. At 2.5 miles, it certainly isn't the nation's longest run, even if the celebration is the longest running.
World Record for Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest: 69
The Coney Island Fourth of July event regularly attracts more than a million viewers and has made a legend out of Joey Chestnut. A "competitive eater," Chestnut downed 69 dogs in 10 minutes in 2013; this year, he's seeking his ninth straight title.
Nathan's likes to promote the event as "a holiday tradition since 1916" but it turns out that's all filler and no meat. In a 2010 interview, legendary promoter Mortimer Matz told The New York Times that the event actually started in the 1970s, lasted less than 4 minutes, and had a grand prize of 40 free hot dogs. Not even the winners seemed to care. "So we said this was an annual tradition since 1916," Matz recalled. "In Coney Island pitchman style, we made it up."
U.S. Population on July 4th: 321.2 Million
This figure comes to us from the U.S. Census Bureau, which is based on their U.S. Population Clock. You have to wonder when this thing will become a smartwatch app, at which point you'll be able to track the July 4th stat going back to 1980. When it does, you're free to rationalize a smartwatch purchase by telling your spouse that it was your patriotic duty.
Value of U.S. Flags Imported in 2014: $3.6 Million
And China is responsible for $3.5 million of that amount. U.S. Census Bureau figures don't lie, and since China makes our smartphones, computers, clothes, and just about any other product you can name, why not the flags, too?
Then again, some merchandisers would reply, "Why?" A plethora of online vendors offer "Made in the U.S.A." flags. And for all we know, some of them might be getting a little revenge by exporting red-and-yellow banners to China.
Shortest Independence Day parade: 6/10 of a mile
It may not be the shortest of any holiday parade — the Hot Springs, Arkansas St. Pat's parade clocks in at 98 feet — but the town of Aptos, California promotes its 4th of July parade as the world's shortest. It runs just about 3,200 feet, but it's got all the necessary elements: classic cars, art vendors, a pancake breakfast, dogs, and probably some guy dressed up as Uncle Sam. It also lasts two hours, which is a whole lotta time for a wee little parade.
As another 4th of July approaches, remember the patriotic sacrifices of our forefathers: George Washington sure did, as he doubled rum rations for his troops on July 4, 1778. Based on the heroism of those colonial rebels, we're able to live and pursue happiness in a free nation unlike any in the world. And whether you hoist a rum, iced tea, or some mystery picnic punch, that's a proposition worth drinking to.