Posted: Jul 01, 2014 7:00 AM
Think American history is dull? Think again! In fact, the history of the good ol' USA almost reads like a Hollywood movie full of action, adventure and drama. We have rounded up some truly fascinating facts that you might have not known (or have forgotten) just in time for the Fourth of July.
Photo credit: angelsimon/ iStock/360/ Getty Images

How was America founded?

In 1620, the Mayflower arrived from England to the New World carrying 102 Pilgrims. These Pilgrims, or Puritans as they were also called, were a religious group that left because they didn’t agree with the Church of England and wanted religious freedom. The colony they founded was called Plymouth Colony or, as we know it currently, Plymouth, Massachusetts.

Who was the first American born in what we now call the U.S.? The first child born in America was named Peregrine White, and he was actually born on the Mayflower ship while they were anchored in the harbor at Cape Cod.

Many Pilgrims didn't survive that first winter

The Pilgrims didn't exactly get a warm welcome in America. In fact, out of the 102 Pilgrims, only 57 survived that first tough winter with most dying from diseases like scurvy, as well as lack of shelter. By 1733, however, the tough Puritans were thriving and with 13 colonies. On July 4, 1776, the 13 colonies issued the Declaration of Independence declaring our independence from the Kingdom of Britain (which we now call the United Kingdom), which is why we celebrate the Fourth of July.

^ Get the scoop on the first Thanksgiving here

Fun facts about the U.S. presidents & founding fathers

In 1732, George Washington was elected the first president of the U.S. and was commander-in-chief during the American Revolutionary War. He played a role in drafting the U.S. Constitution and is one of the founding fathers of the U.S. The first first lady of the U.S. was Martha Washington.

The seven key founding fathers of the U.S. were not all presidents, but were leaders who played a role in the American Revolution and signed the U.S. Declaration of Independence, which established the U.S. Constitution. They are John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and George Washington.

The story of George Washington chopping down a cherry tree is considered to be a myth by many historians. The story is that as a young boy, Washington was given a hatchet and got carried away chopping down things, including his father’s favorite cherry tree. When his father confronted him, he said, “I cannot tell a lie,” and admitted he did it. Instead of punishing him, his father said his honesty was worth more than 1,000 cherry trees.

The second president, John Adams, and the third president, Thomas Jefferson, both died on July 4, 1826. What are the odds of that happening?

President Abraham Lincoln was the 16th president of the U.S. and ended slavery and saved the Union. He also established Thanksgiving as a national holiday. He was tall, standing 6’4’’ and wore between a size 12 and 14 shoe. He wore a stovepipe hat (which made him appear even taller) — and reportedly kept important documents inside of his hat.

Benjamin Franklin

Did you know that Benjamin Franklin was never president of the U.S.? He is on the $100 bill and is one of the founding fathers of the U.S. and is also considered “the First American” for his part in campaigning for colonial unity. He was also a forward thinker, as he is credited with discovering electricity, as well as being the one to organize the first volunteer fire company, the first insurance company and helped to found the first hospital in America.

Did you know the Statue of Liberty was originally copper colored?

The Statue of Liberty sits on Liberty Island, in the middle of the New York Harbor in Manhattan, New York City, and was a gift from France in 1886. She holds a torch and a tablet, which has the date July 4, 1776, inscribed on it — which is the date of the American Declaration of Independence. She is made of copper and was originally a brown color; however, she has slowly turned green due to the natural weathering process called oxidation.

Moving up to her amazing crown, each of the seven rays represent the seven continents. These rays are larger (and heavier) than they may look. Each one is nine feet long and weighs around 150 pounds.

In case you were wondering, there is enough copper in the Statue of Liberty to make 30 million pennies.

The 50 U.S. states

The U.S. is the third most populated country in the world, behind China and India. The U.S. is made up of 50 states, including 48 continental states, plus Alaska and Hawaii.

Did you know Washington, D.C., is not part of any U.S. state? It is formally the District of Columbia and is the capital and federal district of the U.S. The District is under the exclusive jurisdiction of the Congress.

How do the states stack up? Rhode Island is the smallest state, while Alaska is the largest state. It is also interesting to note that Alaska and Hawaii were the last two states to join the union in 1959.

Cha-ching. The faces of our money

We know you like to spend money, but have you ever taken the time to really look at who is on your money? Most of our currency features U.S. presidents, with the exception of two bills. Do you know who they are? (If so, you need to be on Jeopardy, stat.) The $10 bill has the first U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton and the $100 bill has Benjamin Franklin.

The most popular bill, the one dollar bill, has George Washington and only has an average lifespan of 18 months due to wear and tear.

Did you know that the $1,000, the $5,000 and the $10,000 bills have all been discontinued due to lack of use? There are only a few left, so if you have one, they are worth a serious chunk of change.

Speaking of change, the penny was commissioned in 1909 by Teddy Roosevelt to celebrate the 100th birthday of Abraham Lincoln and, of course, features his face. Where are the women on our money? The women’s suffrage leader who helped women earn the right to vote, Susan B. Anthony, is on the dollar coin, while Sacagawea, the Native American guide who led the Lewis & Clark Expedition, is on the Golden Dollar.

allParenting Fascinating facts about American history

More Fourth of July fun

DIY Fourth of July decorations
Red, white and blue foods
Fourth of July cocktail recipes