If Americans have one holiday in common, it’s the Fourth of July.

How long have we officially been celebrating independence from Great Britain? Here’s a timeline:

July 4, 1776 – Members of the Second Continental Congress meet in Philadelphia and adopt the final draft of the Declaration of Independence.

July 4, 1777 – To commemorate the first anniversary of the signing, Philadelphians light candles and set off firecrackers. Yet with no sure outcome in the war for independence, celebrations are kept to a minimum.

July 4, 1778 – On the second anniversary of the signing, Gen. George Washington issues his troops a double ration of rum and orders a Fourth of July artillery salute.

1781 – Massachusetts carries out the first official state celebration of the Fourth of July.

1801 – The White House hosts its first public Fourth of July reception.

1870 – Congress establishes the Fourth of July as an unpaid holiday for federal employees and the District of Columbia.

1938 – Congress establishes the Fourth of July as a paid holiday for federal employees.

1941 – Congress expands the 1938 law to include the District of Columbia.

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