Declaration of Independence: The First PR Opportunity?

As Americans, we take pride in commemorating our nation’s freedom every summer. However, with all the hustle and bustle of 4th of July backyard barbeques, it’s easy to forget the real reason we celebrate this American holiday.

On July 4, 1776, representatives from the thirteen U.S. colonies officially adopted the Declaration of Independence, proclaiming independence of the United States from Great Britain. In the midst of the American Revolutionary War, the Continental Congress asserted their rights to sovereignty and freed the American people from Britain’s unfair taxation laws and dominating practices. Revolutionaries fought and died for our nation’s freedom. Today, we commemorate their struggle and the rights we have achieved as a free nation.

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Social media was not even a futuristic dream in 1776, but new forms of communication at that time, newspapers, were “engines of revolution” that helped foment public discourse. 

Because the Declaration of Independence was a controversial matter with the public for many years after the Revolutionary War, the event was not immediately a cause for celebration. As the years went by, however, Americans became more united in their support and began to celebrate this date each year.

While the first official 4th of July party was held at the White House in 1801, the Declaration of Independence actually received only two signatures on July 4, 1776. The remaining 54 signatures came weeks and even months later. The names of the signers were not released to the public until six months after the signing to protect them from treason laws.

On July 8, 1776, the people of Philadelphia were summoned together by the ringing of the Liberty Bell, where the Declaration of Independence was read to the public for the first time.

This occasion may very well have been the first major public relations event of the new nation!