Hot dogs are another way we celebrate the 4th of July. Americans consume 150 million of them on Independence Day, according to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council. It reported, “that's enough dogs to make a line from Washington, D.C., to Los Angeles more than five times.”
Early on, foreigners in the country celebrated the 4th with us. Hessians we didn’t kill at Valley Forge, but captured, and British deserters took part in Washington’s earliest celebrations, welcome in what for many would be their new home. The Germans probably ate dogs, too, that is frankfurters, since the dish originated in their homeland.
Our national holiday has been celebrated on every continent according to James R. Heintze, author of The 4th of July Encyclopedia. Heintze noted that Richard Byrd was at his base, Little America in Antarctica, in 1934, where he and his men set off fireworks in a raging storm and a 33-degree below zero temperature. That’s dedication.
Over $750 million worth of fireworks will erupt on this 4th. For the most part, the pyrotechnic we shoot off will have originated in China, often made under dangerous circumstances. The factory in Hunan that blew up, a while ago, was manufacturing “Texas Outlaw” fountains when it lit up the sky and killed 14.
It has been estimated that that 238 million pounds of fireworks, about equal to the pounds of hot dogs that’ll be eaten this 4th, will be set off in public and private displays. Exact figures are hard to come by, though, since a fair portion of the fireworks that reach this country flow throw Mexico. Regardless, and by any measure, that represents a lot of gunpowder. Some historians have attributed the invention of gunpowder to Jesuits in China but they get blamed for a lot they didn’t do and this, too, may not be correct.
Proving American presidential lore contains as much data as baseball statistics, a scholar named Heintze compiled a list of what each U.S. president was doing on the 4th of July, though it makes for dry reading. What to ponder this holiday on which we honor the past, however, is how we can make this great land a more hospitable place, for ourselves, and welcoming to those who seek freedom and share our values. We are, after all, a land of immigrants.