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By Lia Blanchard

As we wait for the aftereffects of fireworks to die down in our ears and eyes (especially if you’re in San Diego), let’s think about a few things that are uniquely American. This knowledge might be useful this weekend, if you’ve run out of other topics of conversation with the extended family!

Jazz music

American jazz music developed in the late 1800s through the early 1900s as a rhythmic blend of European classical and pop music with West African folk music. Jazz is considered one of “America’s greatest cultural achievements” because “it unites people across divides… and has always made powerful statements about freedom, creativity, and American identity at home and abroad.”

Cotton candy

Spun sugar was being made as early as the 18th century, but the hand-spinning process made it a very labor-intensive – and therefore expensive – product.

A machine for spinning sugar was invented in the late 1800s and used at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis. Sold as “fairy floss,” it was a huge hit, selling 68,655 boxes at a quarter each.

Mmmmm, cotton candy!

Today, spun sugar is known as “fairy floss” in Australia, and “candy floss” in other countries. Here in the U.S. it’s now called “cotton candy” and it’s as popular as ever – National Cotton Candy Day is observed on December 7.

Blue Jeans

A prospector during the California gold rush was shopping at a dry goods store, and complained to the proprietor that what he really needed was a good, sturdy pair of pants. The proprietor – a Mr. Levi Strauss – used some of his canvas to make “waist overalls”. They were appreciated, but when the miners complained of chafing, Mr. Strauss started making the pants from a material then known as “serge de Nimes”.

The fabric became known as denim, and the popular waist overalls were nicknamed “blue jeans”. Mr. Strauss and a tailor named Jacob Davis co-patented the riveted design that gave the garment its strength. They received the patent on May 20, 1873, now considered the official birth date of this all-American fashion.

What about apple pie and baseball?

Sorry… both of those originated elsewhere, in pretty much the same form they are known by today. Check it out.

Have a great extended holiday weekend, America.