Plenty of people get the day off from work for the biggest birthday bash of the year—America’s. And as we prepare to wish our country a very happy birthday, it's fun to take a minute brush up on some related U.S. history facts and to reflect on what it is we are actually celebrating.
The 4th of July or July 4th are the most common names for this holiday, but let’s not forget this is truly Independence Day. It’s a celebration of a time when 13 colonies, made up of people from different backgrounds with different ideals, banded together to fight for independence so that those ideals might live on in this great nation.
You probably already knew that’s what those 13 original colonies did on that historic day back in 1776, in their quest to eventually become independent states. So, here are some interesting facts about each of the first 13 states you might not know.
[And if you want to dive deeper into our history as a nation, check out Brainscape’s History flashcards].
Interesting facts about the 13 American colonies
1. Delaware’s faceless founding father
Delaware’s state quarter features a picture of founding father Caesar Rodney, even though historians don’t know what Rodney looked like. Rodney had a severe form of facial cancer, always kept his face covered with a green cloth, and never had his portrait painted. That didn’t stop him from making an epic 80-mile ride on horseback in 1776, just in time to sign the Declaration of Independence.
2. Pennsylvania is the site of a giant shoe that was once home to many
In 1948, self-proclaimed “Shoe Wizard” Mahlon Haines built a gigantic shoe in which he let elderly couples stay. It had three bedrooms, two bathrooms and a kitchen, and the couples were treated to a maid, cook, chauffeur and automobile—all on Haines’ dime. The shoe remains open for tours to this day in Hellam, Pennsylvania, and now houses an ice cream shop.
3. In New Jersey full-service isn’t an option, it’s a way of life
Seriously, New Jersey bans patrons from pumping their own gas. Out of concerns that pumping your own fuel was dangerous, the state began requiring gas station attendants to do it for you in 1949.
4. Georgia—The Peanut State
Ok, it’s actually known as the “Peach State,” but peaches aren’t Georgia’s only prominent produce. The state is also well known for its pecans and peanuts. In fact, former President Jimmy Carter, a proud Georgian, was once a peanut farmer.
5. Connecticut was home to the Battle of the Frogs
One hot summer night during a terrible drought in 1758, a cacophony woke the residents of Windham, Connecticut (now part of Willimantic). In a panic because they believed they were under attack from Indians, the citizens armed themselves and headed toward the commotion to discover terrible carnage—except the damage wasn’t human. Thousands of frogs had fought to the death over the last bit of water in the town pond; it was truly a battle of the frogs.
6. Massachusetts is chock full of firsts
Massachusetts has had a surprising amount of firsts, from the first volleyball game in 1895 to the first Dunkin’ Donuts in 1950. Check out some other Massachusetts firsts:
- First Thanksgiving: 1621
- First Public Park: Boston Commons, 1634
- First University: Harvard, 1636
- First Public Library: Boston, 1653
- First Revolutionary War Battle: Lexington, 1775
- First Black Church: Boston, 1806
- First Railroad: Quincy, 1826
- First Typewriter: Worcester, 1850
- First Christmas Card: Boston, 1875
- First Telephone: Boston, 1876
- First Basketball Game: Springfield, 1891
- First Subway: Boston, 1898
- First Automatic Digital Computer: Boston, 1944
7. Maryland pulled one over on the Redcoats
During the War of 1812, residents of Saint Michaels, Maryland fooled British artillerymen by hoisting lamps onto ships’ masts and the tops of trees. Only one house (known as the Cannonball House) was struck, as the height of the lights caused British cannonballs to overshoot the town.
8. Think twice before getting engaged in South Carolina, because you could be subject to a lawsuit if you back out
Breach of Promise to Marry suits used to be commonplace in the U.S., but many states began to bar them in 1930. South Carolina is one of the few states that still allows them, and you can be sued for breaking off an engagement there to this day.
9. New Hampshire has the first presidential primary each election cycle
New Hampshire law requires that the state presidential primary be held seven days before any similar event in any other state, meaning that out of all the 50 states, New Hampshire has the first presidential primary each election cycle.
10. Virginia—where Stonewall Jackson rests in pieces
Legendary Confederate general Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson’s arm was given a proper burial, complete with a headstone, after he lost it due to friendly fire in the Battle of Chancellorsville in 1863. Jackson was later carried to a plantation where he eventually died of pneumonia. He too was given a proper burial, some 150 miles away from his arm.
11. New York’s Empire State Building was designed for docking blimps
The architects who designed one of the most iconic buildings in the world actually envisioned blimps would anchor to the spire and passengers could descend via gangplank to the 102nd floor. Then the Hindenburg exploded, and blimps were relegated to providing aerial coverage of football games.
12. North Carolina was the site of the nation’s most impressive disappearing act
In 1587, a group of English founded a colony at Roanoke Island off the North Carolina coast. Three years later, their countrymen came for a visit only to find the settlement had completely vanished. The cabins were gone, the livestock disappeared, and the only thing that remained was the word “Croaton” carved on a post and “Cro” carved on a tree. The “Lost Colony” was never found.
13. Rhode Island—World Series champs!
Well, not exactly, but they did have a Major League Baseball team that won a championship in 1884 akin to the modern day World Series. The Providence Grays played in the National League and featured star pitcher Charles “Old Hoss” Radbourn. Old Hoss won 59 games in 1884 – a record that will never be broken.
Learn more U.S. history facts
History helps us develop a better understanding of the world. It gives us a better picture of how things worked way back when and how they work now. Learn more about U.S. history with Brainscape's U.S. History flashcards. It's worth your time.