Fireworks. Barbeques. Trips to the ER. Sick of doing the same old thing every Fourth of July? Abandon the same old-same old and celebrate like our presidents do. Here’s how.
1. Purchase a Broom
Though George Washington refused an official salary for his tenure as Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army, he did ask for his daily expenses to be reimbursed—which is why we have a meticulous account of what he purchased on July 4, 1776, the day the Declaration of Independence was signed. In case you can’t decipher the spidery script, Washington purchased mutton, veal, “a roasting peice of Beef,” cabbage, beets, potatoes, lobster and... a broom.
2. Push up some daisies
Not one, not two, but three presidents have commemorated the Fourth of July by kicking the bucket.
John Adams passed away on July 4, 1826, at the age of 90. His last words, it’s said, were, “Thomas Jefferson survives.” Adams was unaware that Jefferson had died just hours before.
Both men had America on their minds in their final moments. Among Jefferson’s final words: “I have done for my country, and for all mankind, all that I could do, and I now resign my soul, without fear, to my God,—my daughter to my country.”
In addition to mentioning Jefferson, Adams also said, “Independence survives.”
Five years later, James Monroe succumbed to heart failure and tuberculosis on July 4, 1831.
3. Drink double rations of rum
To celebrate Independence Day in 1778, then-General George Washington issued his army double allowances of rum. Does this guy know how to party, or what?
4. Recover from an assassination attempt (or try to)
On March 30, 1981, President Ronald Reagan was leaving the Washington Hilton Hotel when John Hinckley, Jr., fired six shots. None of them directly hit Reagan; his near-fatal injury was sustained when a bullet ricocheted off of his waiting limousine. By July 4, the President was doing well enough to host a picnic for a few thousand people (see main picture above) on the South Lawn of the White House.
Reagan isn’t the only president to be in assassination recovery on July 4. James Garfield was shot by Charles Guiteau on July 2, 1881. Sadly, his recovery didn’t go as well as Reagan’s. He lingered all summer, and though many attempts were made to save his life (some that did more harm than good), he died on September 19.
5. Celebrate the birth of your child
In 1998, Barack Obama was surely at the University of Chicago Medical Center celebrating the birth that day of his first daughter, Malia. Malia now celebrates her birthday during annual Fourth of July picnics for military families on the White House lawn.
6. Go on vacation
After serving in their official capacities by giving speeches and attending the White House picnic, many presidents use the Fourth of July to kick off a vacation. Ulysses S. Grant set the precedent back in the late nineteenth century by retreating to the Jersey Shore for some R and R.
7. Eat some rancid cherries
Following Independence Day celebrations at the Washington Monument in 1850, Zachary Taylor did what a lot of us probably do later in the night on July 4: He raided the fridge. Chowing down on cherries and iced milk, Taylor became immediately ill afterward, and died on July 9. Rumors of poisoning immediately flew around, but analysis of his remains in 1991 showed no evidence of assassination by arsenic. Taylor’s physicians chalked up his unexpected demise to cholera.
8. Blow out some candles
Calvin Coolidge is, thus far, the only U.S. President to be born on July 4. In 1872, John Calvin Coolidge, Jr., was born in Plymouth Notch, Vermont, to Victoria Moor Coolidge.
9. Light a few firecrackers
Not even the Commander in Chief can resist being a pyromaniac on the Fourth of July. But, as you might expect, their fireworks are a little more impressive than yours. Here, Harry Truman gleefully accepts a massive firecracker with his initials on it in 1947.
If none of these presidential plans appeal to you, you could always create your own fireworks show with what you have on hand. That’s what a group of miners in Swan City, Colorado, had in mind in 1884 when they blew up the local post office after the town refused to supply fireworks.