The Liberty Bell: According to tradition, the Liberty Bell, which was used to mark important occasions, was rung on July 4, 1776, to summon the people of Philadelphia for a reading of the Declaration of Independence. Photo by Bob Krist/Corbis
Variously known as the Fourth of July and Independence Day, July 4 has been a federal holiday in the United States since 1941, but the tradition of Independence Day celebrations goes back to the 18th century and the American Revolution (1775-83.)
In June 1776, representatives of the 13 colonies then fighting in the revolutionary struggle weighed a resolution that would declare their independence from Great Britain.
On July 2, the Continental Congress voted in favor of independence, and two days later its delegates adopted the Declaration of Independence, a historic document drafted by Thomas Jefferson.
From 1776 until the present day, July 4 has been celebrated as the birth of American independence, with typical festivities ranging from fireworks, parades and concerts to more casual family gatherings and barbecues.