The Origin of the 21-Gun Salute

Personal Snapshots
Forecasts & Strategies
July 2002

“Is anybody there? Does anybody care? Does anyone see what I see?”

— George Washington, 1776

The 21-gun salute is considered the highest expression of honor and respect, given to recognize the presence or the passing of a great military hero or political leader. What is the origin of the 21-gun salute? In ancient times, warships fired seven-gun salutes based on the lucky number seven. Seven is also an important biblical number — e.g., God rested on the seventh day.

In 1810, the War Department of the United States defined the “national salute” as equal to the number of states in the Union, at the time 17. This salute was fired by all U.S. military installations at 1 p.m. (later at noon) on Independence Day. Today 50 guns are fired when the president visits a military installation, or when a president or ex-president dies.

In 1842, the presidential salute was formally established at 21 guns. Why 21? Some say it is a multiple of three based on another significant biblical number. At Independence Hall in Philadelphia, tour guides report that the 21-gun salute reflects the founding of our country. Independence was declared on July 4, 1776. If you add up the numbers 1 + 7 + 7 + 6, what do you get? 21! In Las Vegas, “21” is a lucky number. Not only does it represent winning at Blackjack, but if you add the 1 and the 6 in 1776, you get 777, the lucky winning combination in slot machines. And my friend Bert Dohmen, a financial technical analyst, noted that “21” is a Fibonacci number, a number that is found often in nature (the numbers in a Fibonacci sequence are 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144, … where you add the previous number to get the next Fibonacci number). Fibonacci numbers are used frequently by mathematicians and technical analysts on Wall Street.

What Is the 1776 Club?

To honor our Founding Fathers and the Spirit of 1776, I’ve created the new 1776 Club. The purpose of the 1776 Club is to help deserving students learn the principles of free-market economics and the freedom philosophy in several ways: by attending seminars at FEE headquarters and other centers of liberty around the world; by attending on-campus lectures, regional seminars and international conferences; and taking accredited Internet classes in sound economics. (I’m working right now with Grantham University — — to create courses in investments, economics and finance, to be announced soon.)

We chose the 1776 Club as the name of this Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) program in honor of our Founding Fathers who declared economic, political and religious independence, and thus created the freest, most prosperous nation in the world.

At the FEE Fest 2002 in Las Vegas in May, we encouraged attendees to donate any amount of money using the numbers “76” or “1776” in them, from 76 cents to $1,776. So far we have raised nearly $15,000 in the 1776 Club. Please feel free to donate any amount, such as $76, $760 or $1,776, to this good cause. If you donate $1,776 or more, you become a Founding Member of the 1776 Club. Some of the first to become Founding Members are: Andrew Westhem, president of Westhem Grant Group of La Jolla, California; Mel Adams, president of Adams Bank in Nebraska; Bert Dohmen of Dohmen Capital Management of Hawaii; Conrad Denke, president of American Production Services of Hollywood, California; and our new FEE chairman, Ed Barr.

What are the benefits of being a Founding Member of the 1776 Club? First, you receive a lifetime subscription to our monthly publication, Ideas on Liberty. Second, you receive a complimentary copy of Leonard E. Read’s classic work, Government — An Ideal Concept. And third, you receive special discounts for our annual FEE Fest and other FEE seminars throughout the year. Most importantly, you share in the joy of helping young people learn the principles of sound economics.

Throughout the month of July, we are planning to ring FEE’s Liberty Bell in honor of all those who send in donations to the 1776 Club. If you send in a donation, we will ring the bell once. If you donate $1,776 or more, we will ring the Liberty Bell 21 times in your name as a way of showing our appreciation for your patriotism and support. Send your donation to the Foundation for Economic Education, 30 South Broadway, Irvington, New York 10533, call 800/960-4FEE, ext. 209, or go to


  1. Dan says

    Your post in 2002 “The Origin of the 21-Gun Salute” is fictitious. I did not check further to see if had later printed a retraction /correction.

    • Marcie Lamb says

      I applaud your efforts and think it is a.great way to honor and teach the founding of our country, the 21 gun salute, and math.

  2. Ben Franklin says

    Strange that the 21 gun salute was used before 1776 and is still used in other countries. Believe what you want to I guess.

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