Above, the famous John Trumbull painting depicting the presentation of the Declaration to John Hancock. John Adams is standing on the right of the Committee of Five. Right, the Bill of Rights currently on display at Williams College.
Independence Day will be celebrated Saturday, July 4. It is a federal holiday marking the ratification of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776.
Because it falls on a Saturday this year, Friday is considered the federal holiday for purposes of employment and some closures. Call ahead if unsure of your destination's holiday schedule.
Representatives from 13 original colonies, of which Massachusetts was a leader, actually voted on July 2 at the Second Continental Congress to declare their independence from Great Britain. The Declaration formalizing the decision — and giving the reasons for doing so — was written by a Committee of Five, with Thomas Jefferson as the principal author. The others were John Adams, Benjamin Franklin and Roger Sherman of Connecticut and Robert Livingston of New York.
Adams, author of the Massachusetts Constitution, would write to his wife, Abigail: "The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival."
But it would be the adoption two days later that would live in the minds of his countrymen, helped by that large date inscribed at the top of the document. It would be signed the following month. One of the signers was Samuel Adams, for whom the town of Adams (and by extension, North Adams) is named.
Williams College holds one of the few original copies in existence and hosts a reading of the Declaration each Fourth of July, although not this year.
Massachusetts would become the first state to recognize the day as a state celebration, in 1781. The Congress made it an unpaid holiday in 1870 and a paid federal holiday in 1938.
Both Presidents Jefferson and Adams, friends and political foes, would die on the 50th anniversary of the signing. In another bit of trivia, Calvin Coolidge, the 30th president and former governor of Massachusetts, is the only president to have been born on the Fourth of July.
Federal, state and local offices; no mail delivery.
Public colleges and schools, most private schools
Most offices and businesses
BRTA is running Friday; no bus service on Saturday.
Most retail outlets, groceries
Restaurants and bars, by choice
Most fireworks, parades, and other celebratory events have been canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, including the BSO's annual event on the esplanade. Pittsfield Community Television is broadcasting a special show in place of the canceled Pittsfield Fourth of July Parade.
On July 4, beginning at 9:30 a.m., PCTV will air "Fighting for Independence: The History of the Pittsfield Fourth of July Parade." This will be followed at 10 with a retrospective of the parade from PCTV's live coverage of the parade over the past three decades.
The state Department of Transportation is advising the public for this Fourth of July to consider staying a home because of the pandemic, but if making travel arrangements, to check destinations for the health protocols which are in place and, if driving, plan for trips utilizing MassDOT's many "real time" travel tools, and if taking public transportation, to check schedules.
"The best advice we can give anyone traveling for the Fourth is to plan ahead," said Highway Administrator Jonathan Gulliver. "With the Fourth falling on the weekend, travelers should expect higher volumes on Friday and Monday. We urge everyone to slow down and make smart decisions before getting behind a wheel this weekend."
Reminder that there is no ferry service on Saturday; buses and commuter rail in the Boston area will run on a Saturday schedule on Friday, July 3, and buses Saturday will run on a Sunday schedule. Face coverings are required on all transportation. More information on the MBTA schedules available here