Independence by the numbers


On this day in 1776, the Continental Congress approved the Declaration of Independence, setting the 13 colonies on a pathway to freedom from British tyranny. As we pause to celebrate this grand act of defiance, we will surely remember the lives lost in service to this freedom. We will likewise recall all the other sacrifices necessary to protect and maintain that freedom. It is also fitting that we stop to consider some of the more trivial, but nonetheless interesting facts surrounding our march to independence.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau the population of the British colonies in North America in 1776 was approximately 2.5 million people. Today the population of the United States is approximately 318.4 million.

There were 56 signatories to the Declaration of Independence. As every school kid can attest, John Hancock was the first to sign. So grand was his signature, that one’s “John Hancock” has become synonymous with signing a document.

There were two future presidents on hand to sign: John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. The pair had a lifelong friendly rivalry. Both died on the 50th anniversary of signing the Declaration, July 4, 1826. According to the Census Bureau, there are 12 counties nationwide named Adams and 26 named Jefferson.

Benjamin Franklin was the oldest signatory at age 70. Edwin Rutledge of South Carolina was the youngest at 26.

The Census Bureau also gives us some fun facts about the annual tradition of shooting fireworks. This year the U.S. will import roughly $203.6 million in fireworks from the People’s Republic of China. Another $10 million will come from other sources. By comparison, the United States will export $10.2 million in 2013, with Israel purchasing more than any other country ($2.7 million).

Of course we all want to unfurl our national flag on Independence Day. This too has a strong link with China. Of the $4 million in flags imported last year, $3.9 million came from China. In contrast, we exported just under $800,000 in flags during 2013, the biggest importer of which was the Dominican Republic. They purchased approximately $166,000 worth in 2013.

On the matter of trade more generally, our former colonial masters, the British, are now our largest trading partner. We had an exchange of roughly $100 billion last year.

Another fine Fourth of July tradition is the family cookout. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, there are a total of 62.9 million hogs and pigs in the U.S. as of March 2014. As the USDA attests, the chances are that the pork hot dogs and sausages consumed on the Fourth of July originated in Iowa. The Hawkeye State was home to an estimated 19.8 million hogs and pigs. North Carolina (estimated at 8.0 million) and Minnesota (estimated at 7.8 million) were also homes to large numbers of pigs.

If beef is what’s for dinner, the geography is a bit different. There is a good chance that the beef hot dogs, steaks and burgers on your backyard grill came from Texas, which accounted for nearly one-sixth of the nation’s total production. If by chance the beef did not come from Texas, it very well may have come from Nebraska (estimated at 5.1 billion pounds) or Kansas (estimated at 3.7 billion pounds).

Any way you like to slice it, Americans enjoy their Fourth of July. The fact that it coincides nicely with a weekend this year probably doesn’t hurt too many feelings either.