Fourth of July has always been one of my favorite times to visit some of those places that help define the freedoms we enjoy in this country. If you’re traveling along the East Coast this summer, there are several key places that really help you appreciate what makes this country so special. Especially after what we’ve gone through in the last year, I can’t think of a better time to stop and reflect upon how the whole idea started.
Betsy Ross House
239 Arch Street, Philadelphia, PA
History says that Betsy Ross made the first American flag after a visit in June 1776 by George Washington, Robert Morris, and her husband’s uncle, George Ross. Supposedly, she demonstrated how to cut a 5-pointed star with a single clip of the scissors, if the fabric were folded correctly. However, this story was not told until 1870 by Betsy’s grandson, and many scholars believe that while Betsy probably didn’t make the first flag, she was indeed a professional flag maker. Her house, now a museum, remains one of Philadelphia’s most visited landmarks.
Read more about the history of the American flag here.
The Boston Massacre
Devonshire and State Street, Boston, MA
In front of the Old State House, a circle of cobblestones commemorates the Boston Massacre. It was here on March 5, 1770, that a minor dispute between a wig maker’s young apprentice and a British sentry turned into a riot. The relief soldiers that came to the aid of the British were met by an angry crowd of colonists who hurled snowballs, rocks, clubs, and insults. The soldiers fired into the crowd and killed five colonists. Samuel Adams and other patriots called the event a “massacre,” thus helping to sow the seeds of resentment towards the British that would culminate in the American Revolution.
Declaration of Independence
143 South Third Street, Philadelphia, PA
Independence National Historical Park, located in downtown (called “Center City”) Philadelphia, is often referred to as the birthplace of our nation. Here, visitors can see the Liberty Bell, an international symbol of freedom, and Independence Hall, a World Heritage Site where both the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution were created. A section of the park where Benjamin Franklin’s home once stood is dedicated to Franklin’s life and accomplishments. Spanning approximately 45 acres, the park has about 20 buildings open to the public.
Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine
2600 E. Fort Avenue, Baltimore, MD
This late 18th-century star-shaped fort is world-famous as the birthplace of the United States’ national anthem. It was during a British attack on September 13-14, 1814, that a 35-year-old poet-lawyer, Francis Scott Key, was inspired to write “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Key was born on August 1, 1779. By 1805, Key had established a law practice in Georgetown, Maryland, and, by 1814, had appeared many times before the U.S. Supreme Court.
In August 1814, Key’s friend Dr. William Beanes was taken prisoner by the British army soon after its departure from Washington. Key left for Baltimore to obtain the services of Colonel John Skinner, the government’s prisoner of war exchange agent. Together they sailed down the bay on a truce ship and met the British fleet. Key successfully negotiated the doctor’s release, but was detained with Skinner and Beanes by the British until after the attack on Baltimore. Key’s vessel was 8 miles below the fort during the bombardment, under the watchful care of a British warship. It was from this site that he witnessed the British attack on Fort McHenry, after which he wrote the words to “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
174 Liberty Street, Concord, MA
The Old North Bridge, in Concord, Massachusetts, was the site of the first battle between British government soldiers and British colonial rebels, who later became independent Americans. Fought on April 19, 1775, the battle began when government troops, attempting to confiscate weapons from the colonists, found themselves opposed by a determined militia of local farmers. Militia Captain John Parker gave his troops the famous order, “Stand your ground. Don’t fire until fired upon. But if they mean to have a war, let it begin here.” The “shot heard around the world,” as Ralph Waldo Emerson called it in his “Concord Hymn,” rang out from this bridge and the American Revolution had begun.
Safe travels this holiday. See you next week!
Chris Epting is an author, award-winning journalist/photographer and dedicated road tripper. His best-selling books including James Dean Died Here (the locations of America’s pop culture landmarks), Roadside Baseball, and The Birthplace Book, along with many others that remain popular with many travelers and RVers throughout the country and world. He is excited to be contributing to RVTravel.com and looks forward to helping to lead you places you may not have discovered otherwise. You may learn more about Chris at his author’s site, www.chrisepting.com.