Fireworks light up the sky in Washington, D.C. (Cliff Owen / Associated…)
Maybe you're not traveling to the Cradle of Democracy this Independence Day. (And, by the way, no one agrees on where that is. Some say it's Philadelphia, others Massachusetts, others Jamestown, Va., and let us not forget Greece.) Wherever it is and wherever you are, it's a good idea to stop and remember the vast geography of our country, the genius of its founders and all the people and symbols that go with it. Here’s a quick quiz to help you contemplate all of the above.
Why, you may ask, do you need to know any of this stuff? You don’t. But it’s all part of the fabric of our history, and that is one amazing tapestry.
1. Which one of these is not one of the 13 original colonies: South Carolina, Georgia, Vermont, New Hampshire?
2. Betsy Ross is closely associated with the making of the first flag, although it's said that the story is more fiction than fact. In what city was she born and in what city did she die? Extra credit: How many times was she married?
3. In what state did Francis Scott Key rewrite the poem that became the "Star Spangled Banner"? Extra credit: In what year did he write it and to what English drinking song was the poem set?
4. Besides the United States, in what other countries is the bald eagle, our national emblem, found? Extra credit: In what year were bald eagles named our national emblem?
5. The Bald Eagle Protection Act of 1940 outlawed the killing of bald eagles in all but what place?
6. Fireworks are generally thought to have originated in what country?
7. On what day did the Continental Congress vote in favor of the Declaration of Independence?
8. What was the Peace of Paris and which countries signed it? Extra credit: What year?
9. In the early days of our nation, Fourth of July celebrations used as their template what other commemoration?
10. So you're planning a cookout for the Fourth of July. Don't forget the hot dogs. When were they introduced in the United States? And in what city and country are they thought to have originated?
1. Vermont. It became an independent republic in 1777. The original colonies were Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Virginia.
2. Betsy Ross was born in and died in Philadelphia. She was married three times: She married John Ross in 1773; he was killed while serving in the militia in 1776. She took over his upholstery business. She married Joseph Ashburn in 1777; he died in a British prison in 1782. She married John Claypoole in 1783. Claypoole died in 1817; she died in 1836 at the age of 84. The house from which she ran her upholstery business is open to the public.
3. Maryland. Francis Scott Key was on a boat off the Maryland coast. Trying to get a friend released from British captivity, he watched Ft. McHenry being bombarded Sept. 13 and 14, 1814. He reworked the poem in Baltimore on Sept. 14. It is set to the tune of "To Anacreon in Heaven."
4. Canada and Northern Mexico. 1782.
5. Alaska. A U.S. territory at the time, it was admitted to the Union in 1959.
7. July 2
8. The group of treaties that ended the Revolutionary War and were signed in 1783. England was on one side of the treaties, the U.S., France and Spain on the others. (The Dutch also signed a treaty with England but not until 1784.) Of the three 1783 treaties, the U.S. treaty was signed in Paris; the others in Versailles.
9. The birthday of the king of England.
10. About 1900 but maybe before. Frankfurt am Main, Germany.
0-3 correct: You need to watch HBO’s "John Adams" or read David McCullough’s book on which the miniseries was based.
4-7: You are smarter than a fifth-grader, but a re-read of "1776," also by McCullough, might be in order.
8-10: Go to the head of the class. You are excused from having to write an essay on "What It Means to Be an American." But you’ve probably already done it without being asked.
If you got the extra-credit questions: Wowzer. Remind me not to invite you to play Trivial Pursuit.