(poached from the blog of my Mississippi friend, Phil Hardwick)
The United States observes no national holidays, that is, holidays mandated across all 50 states by the Federal government. The United States Congress and/or President can only legally establish an “official” holiday for its “federal” employees and the District of Columbia. States and municipalities are free to adopt holidays enjoyed by the federal government or to create their own.
Boston was the first municipality (city/town) to officially designate July Fourth as a holiday, in 1783.
The Declaration of Independence, unanimously declared by the thirteen United States of America, was adopted by the Continental Congress in Philadelphia on July 4, 1776. The task of getting the document signed began on August 2, 1776. Congress made sure that all states would have access to an authenticated copy of the Declaration by ordering a special printing of multiple copies on January 18, 1777.
In Philadelphia the Declaration of Independence was publicly read on July 8, 1776.
1776- The Pennsylvania Evening Post is the first newspaper to print the Declaration of Independence
1791- The only Fourth of July address ever made by George Washington occurs at Lancaster, Pa.
1802- The U.S. Military Academy at West Point is formally opened
1875- In Augusta, Georgia, the white military celebrates the Fourth, the first time in that town since the Civil War; several blacks and possibly one white are killed when a fray erupts at a Fourth of July celebration held at the Court House in Vicksburg, Miss.
2006- The first ever launch of a space shuttle on Independence Day occurs when shuttle Discovery lifts off at Kennedy Space Center
James Heintze, Librarian at American University, Washington, D.C http://gurukul.american.edu/heintze/fourth.htm#Designation