July 4 marks our nation's birthday, but did you also know that two of America's most significant founding fathers died within hours of each other on the same Independence Day?
Most schoolchildren learn about the many significant contributions John Adams and Thomas Jefferson made during the struggle to "dissolve the political bands" that connected the 13 colonies and Great Britain in the mid-1700s in order to establish the United States of America as a separate, equal nation.
Tasked by the Continental Congress to draft a written expression of the colonies' need to separate from Great Britain, Jefferson was appointed by the "Committee of Five" (Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, Robert Livingston and Jefferson) to draft a statement explaining why in June 1776.
Within roughly three weeks, Jefferson delivered such a statement. With some modifications, the fledgling congress ratified this document (the "Declaration of Independence") and permanently, irrevocably severed all allegiance with England's King George III and Great Britain. Both Jefferson and Adams are among the original signers of this historic work.
Afterward, both Adams and Jefferson served as vice president and president of the United States of America. Despite political pressures that impeded their friendship for more than a decade, Adams reestablished communication with Jefferson in 1812. Via nearly 160 ensuing letters over roughly the next 14 years, the aging pair exchanged views on politics, government, their roles in history and many other topics.
On July 4, 1826 -- exactly 50 years after the signing of the "Declaration of Independence" -- both men died within five hours of each other despite their separation by hundreds of miles. This was the first of only two times when two U.S. presidents died on the same date (Harry Truman and Gerald Ford both died the day after Christmas, in 1972 and 2006, respectively).
Discover the final words that John Adams and Thomas Jefferson said on their deathbeds.
Photo: A close-up of John Adams (left) and Thomas Jefferson (holding papers) as depicted in John Trumbull's painting, "Declaration of Independence."