You can keep your July 4th fireworks and barbecues, as a true American history nerd, the date I like to celebrate is July 8th.

Sure, the Declaration of Independence was approved and signed and whatnot on July 4th, 1776, but it was not read publicly until July 8th, at Independence Hall in Philadelphia. (N.B.:  The building was not yet known as Independence Hall.)

Reading the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia

Every year, National Park Service rangers don period costume and conduct a dramatic re-enactment of the momentous occasion.  I went to last year’s edition, received my free broadsheet copy of the Declaration, and followed along with the ranger. (You can read my full reaction to this event over at The Millions.)

The copy basically disintegrated in the thunderstorm that immediately followed the reading, but I did bring the pulp back to New York with me.  If you want to know what it is to really be an American, I suggest you ride the Bolt Bus from Philadelphia to Manhattan on the evening of July 8th, in possession of your very own wad of patriotic pulp.

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Alison J. Stein

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