John Adams was certain that future generations would celebrate America's independence on July 2. How could our second president have been so wrong?
July 2, 1776, is the actual date when the Continental Congress voted for independence from Great Britain.
"The myth is that everyone stood around a table, signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, and declared that this was the day that would always be remembered," says Jack Larkin, director of research at Old Sturbridge Village, an outdoor history museum in Sturbridge, Mass.
Two days after the historic vote, on July 4, Congress heard the Declaration read aloud and voted to adopt it. But signing it had to wait until an official parchment copy could be made, which took some time. Some delegates also probably wanted to see how the document played with voters first. The signing wasn't completed until Aug. 2.
Perhaps to give a stronger sense of unity and decisiveness, the official Journal of Congress recorded the reading and signing of the Declaration as if it had occurred on a single day: July 4. The inaccuracy was corroborated by faulty memories until unpublished sections of the journal were discovered in 1821.