Although the Continental Congress declared independence on July 4, they actually voted to declare independence two days earlier, on July 2, 1776. John Adams would later write to his wife: "The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America.... It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more."
The lyrics were written on September 14, 1814, by amateur poet Francis Scott Key after witnessing the bombardment of Fort McHenry by British ships of the Royal Navy in Baltimore Harbor during the Battle of Baltimore in the War of 1812. Key was inspired by the large American flag flying triumphantly above the fort during the American victory.
Although John Adams was the first president to occupy the executive mansion, it was Thomas Jefferson who established the traditions of a July 4th celebration at the White House. On July 4, 1801, he opened the Executive Mansion to diplomats, civil and military officers and Cherokee chiefs.