This Day in History: July 4th

West Point opens

President Thomas Jefferson signs a law proclaiming the West Point Military Academy in New York be an institution representative of democracy. Since its creation, West Point has graduated 67,000 men and women.

Construction on Erie Canal begins

Often nicknamed the Eighth Wonder of the World, the Erie Canal would become the first waterway transportation system to connect the eastern seaboard (Hudson River) to the western interior (Lake Erie).

Two Revolution icons dietwo-revolution-icons-die-5153f

Former Presidents John Adams and Thomas Jefferson die within minutes of each other. It is the 50th anniversary of the day in which both leaders signed the Declaration of Independence.

‘Alice in Wonderland’ published

Famed author Lewis Carroll publishes “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” a story that would become one of the most treasured children’s tales of all time.

Siege of Vicksburg ends

After 47 days of siege, Confederate forces finally surrender to Union forces in Vicksburg, Mississippi. Although the Civil War continued for two more years, the end of the seige was a turning point, splitting the Confederate Army in half.

France gives Statue of Libertyfrance-gives-statue-of-liberty-472f1

In honor of America’s stand for freedom and democracy, French artists design, sculpt and present a 301-foot statue as a token of friendship. The statue stands proudly in New York.

‘Fight of the Century’

A dusty Nevada desert was the scene to an epic boxing match that featured African American Jack Johnson and Jim Jeffries, the “Great White Hope.” Johnson won the match which was dubbed the “Fight of the Century.”

Gehrig’s announcement

Iconic New York Yankee baseball player Lou Gehrig announces to the world he has a deadly degenerative disease and retires from the game. In his words, he considers himself the “luckiest man alive.”

US begins Germany air offensive

In a response to a Nazi Germany army spreading across western Europe, the U.S. joins the Allies in an air offensive. American B-52 Bombers and other planes helped to stop Germany’s western expansion.

Philippines gains independence

The Philippines, a U.S. colony, gains full independence and becomes its own nation. Shortly before it became the independent Republic of the Philippines, it was occupied by Japan in World War II.

Alaska becomes the 49th star

Once owned by Russia, the newest U.S. state becomes an official representation on the “Stars and Stripes” as it gets its own star on the American flag.

Hawaii becomes the 50th star

The last state admitted to the Union, the lush, tropical island of Hawaii gets its own star on the American flag.

LBJ signs information act

President Lyndon B. Johnson signs “The Freedom of Information Act,” landmark legislation that allows the public to see or partially see previously classified documents by the federal government.

Four Iranian diplomats disappear

When Israel invades Lebanon, four Iranian diplomats are kidnapped. Today, their whereabouts are unknown but some believe they are jailed in Israeli prisons.

Klaus Barbie convicted

In 1987, Klaus Barbie, the former Gestapo chief known as the “Butcher of Lyon,” was convicted by a French court of crimes against humanity and sentenced to life in prison (he died in September 1991).

U.S. Navy shoots down Iranian plane

The USS Vincennes, a U.S. Navy missile cruiser, mistakenly shoots down Iranian Air Flight 655, killing 270 people. The captain of the vessel believed the passenger plane was an F-14 Tomcat Fighter.

Pathfinder lands on Mars

The U.S.’s first exploration of another planet takes place when Pathfinder lands on Ares Vallis Mars. The rover sent back insurmountable data including 16,500 images and important rock, wind and soil information.

Barry White dies

In 2003, singer Barry White died in Los Angeles after battling kidney problems and a stroke. He was 58.

Freedom Tower started

The first cornerstone of the Freedom Tower is laid out in a solemn ceremony to commemorate 3,000 Americans lost in the 9/11 terror attacks.

Discovery lifts offdiscovery-lifts-off-7e811

In its first manned launch on Independence Day, Shuttle Discovery launches from Cape Canaveral, Florida with seven astronauts on board. After a successful mission, the crew landed 12 days later. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review. Note: Comments containing links are not allowed.

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