By the original Independence Day in 1776, life was already changing for people in the United States. The Revolutionary War had started a year before, and American colonists were fighting for their independence against the British Empire.
During the Revolution, the official population count for the American colonies was fewer than 3 million people, which is less than Iowa’s population this year. Only a portion of the people fought in the war, but many more helped in other ways — including children.
• At war: Boys who were 16 or older could join the military. Some boys even younger than that worked as musicians and messengers. Girls and boys supported the army by sewing uniforms, growing food and caring for wounded soldiers. A few young women fought in the war by using fake names because women were not allowed to join the military.
• At home: When adults go away to fight in wars, children take on more responsibilities at home. During the Revolutionary War, children were responsible for farm chores, taking care of younger siblings, making clothes and many other household jobs.
• At school: Many children in colonial American learned to read and write, either at home or at a small school near their home. Besides wealthy families, children stopped going to school by age 10 so they could do more work at home.
• At play: Even though there was always a lot of work to do, children in colonial times still found some time for fun. Young Americans had dolls, wood carvings and balls as toys, and they played games like hide-and-seek.