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Historian's favorite day: July 4

July 04, 2008|From the Associated Press

CLARKSBURG, Md. -- Historian James Heintze can tick off colorful accounts of how the nation has celebrated the Fourth of July over the years. In the 19th century, canons fired, church bells sounded and fireworks exploded. Indianapolis residents watched in 1911 as two trains purposely collided at full speed, the locomotive personnel bailing out before the crash.

The gray-haired academic has chronicled just about everything there is to know about commemorating the birth of the United States.

His 360-page, factoid-packed book, "The Fourth of July Encyclopedia," was published last year, and he's now moved on to researching a book about Fourth-related music.

Heintze, a 65-year-old retired librarian at American University in Washington, has dedicated more than a dozen years to researching the history of this single day -- a passion that began with his interest in Independence Day music.

"What's fascinating about it is the hunt for treasure . . . finding bits of American heritage," Heintze said.

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