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Four things to remember on the Fourth of July

Published: Wednesday, July 3, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT
(Rob Winner –
Johann Kalb, known more commonly as Baron de Kalb, is seen Tuesday on the mural "Its Merits Recommend It…" located on the Van Orthopaedic & Spine Surgery building on the corner of First Street and Lincoln Highway in downtown DeKalb. Muralist Olivia Gude led a group of painters to create the work in 1999.
(Monica Maschak –
Sam Jones, 82, a resident at Grand Victorian in Sycamore, plays taps on his trumpet by the flag pole in front of the assisted-living home Tuesday. Jones, a Korean War veteran, has been playing taps every night at 6:45 p.m. since he moved to the home two years ago. "I play for the veterans and those that died," Jones said.

The Fourth of July has been memorialized in movies, recounted in history books, and commercialized as an excuse for bargain sales.

It might be a good reason for you to barbecue, or spend the day by the pool. Or to remember how our forefathers and foremothers carved out a new nation. Whatever sounds like fun to you.

As you prepare for the most American of American holidays, here are four facts about the Fourth you might want to share with friends and family over fireworks or food.

1. DeKalb was named after a Revolutionary War general.

He wasn't actually a baron, but Johann Kalb adopted the "de," the French and Spanish preposition "of," and began telling people he had a noble lineage to kick off his military career, according to a July 12, 1978, article in The MidWeek. He was born July 29, 1721, in Huttendorf, Germany, but had become a lieutenant in the French army by the age of 22, when he was signing his name "The Baron deKalb."

DeKalb set sail for the emerging new country in America in April 1777 with Marquis de Lafayette. He was elected major in September 1777 and took command of a division of troops that wintered in Valley Forge, Pa., according to The MidWeek.

Ultimately a Quartermaster General, DeKalb was injured in the Battle of Camden as he and a few other troops protected the retreating American forces, according to DeKalb historian Waite Embree. The British took him prisoner and he died three days later, Embree wrote.

A lifesize bronze statue of DeKalb was erected near the Delaware statehouse in 1886, according to a July 31, 1980, Sycamore News article. More locally, his portrait is included in the mural on the Van Orthopaedic & Spine Surgery building at First Street and Lincoln Highway in DeKalb.

2. Sparklers burn at temperatures of up to 1,800 degrees.

That's hot enough to ignite a child's clothing and cause third-degree burns within 30 seconds, according to a news release from the Sycamore Fire Department. By comparison, steel warps and sags at about 1,100 degrees, according to the release.

Fire officials suggest residents leave the fireworks to the professionals. You can find out more about local festivities on Page 4B of today's issue.

3. Police will be out in force.

About 34 of the 55 people killed in crashes in Illinois during the Independence Day holidays of the past five years were involved in crashes with drunken drivers, according to a state police news release.

The Illinois State Police and other agencies plan more than 100 roadside safety checks and more than 500 saturation patrols statewide targeting drunken drivers through Sunday, the news release states

Locally, DeKalb police will have officers working overtime to patrol the fireworks and related activities at Hopkins Park and to respond to the expected extra calls for assistance.

4. That's a lot of American flags.

Sycamore resident John Arends has a collection of 55 American flags, including some made before World War I with 45 and 46 stars. He plans to fly about 20 of them this holiday at his home on Somonauk Street.

"I just like flags," he told The MidWeek Editor Dana Herra. "As long as I've lived in this house, I've flown a POW and a 50-star flag every day. My dad was a World War II vet, and though I was not in the service, Vietnam was my time and those guys had a hard time. I just don't want people to forget."

You can read more about him on Page 4 of today's The MidWeek.

As a bonus: The website has links to recipes from former first lady Mamie Eisenhower's Million Dollar Fudge and Mrs. Truman's Mac and Cheese. You can see them here:

By the numbers

26: The age of the youngest signer of the Declaration of Independence, Edward Rutledge

56: Number of people who signed the Declaration of Independence

70: The age of the oldest signer of the Declaration of Independence, Benjamin Franklin

2.5 million: Number of people living in the newly formed country in July 1776

316.2 million: The nation's estimated population today

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