America’s Bicentennial Celebration
18 artifacts in this set
As the Bicentennial approached, Americans focused attention on their history and traditions. Earlier symbols of freedom--like the liberty bell, the American eagle, and the American flag--became newly popular, and a revival of traditional crafts, like quilting, emerged.
The celebration of America's Bicentennial began in earnest in 1974, the two-hundredth anniversary of the first Continental Congress, which led to the Declaration of Independence in 1776. The postal service produced commemorative stamps, and the U.S. Treasury issued special coinage. A federally-appointed group coordinated celebratory events nationwide and created mementos, like this medal.
The American Revolution Bicentennial Commission evaluated graphic design proposals for an official event logo. Bruce Blackburn submitted the winning design -- a traditional five-pointed star wrapped in modern red, white, and blue "bunting." The symbol appeared on souvenirs, postage stamps, and flags flown at government buildings around the country.
Though the government regulated official uses of the Bicentennial logo, it had broader appeal. Many Americans adopted it as part of their own Bicentennial expressions. Seventy-two-year-old Henrietta Lanham Head of Detroit, Michigan, made this appliqued pillow as a tribute to America’s 200th birthday.
President Gerald Ford dedicated the American Freedom Train in December 1974. Over the next two years, the train visited all 48 contiguous states. More than 7 million people toured its display cars, which presented American history through a variety of historical artifacts, from a copy of the Constitution owned by George Washington and the original Louisiana Purchase, to Joe Frazier's boxing trunks and Judy Garland's dress from The Wizard of OZ.
1976 marked the 200th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. To celebrate the Bicentennial, people across the nation purchased commemorative souvenirs, like this poster, and organized innumerable events -- from parades and fireworks displays to television programs and sporting events.
Communities nationwide -- both big and small -- organized their own Bicentennial celebrations. In large cities, especially those with historical connections to the Revolutionary War, major events marked the Bicentennial. Boston's Bicentennial organization promoted special exhibitions and walking trails, and coordinated debates, musical performances, and other cultural events to celebrate the nation’s 200th birthday.
Brochure Advertising "Bicentennial Events for the Family" at Greenfield Village & Henry Ford Museum, 1976
The Bicentennial heightened Americans' interest in their history. Museums and historical sites across the nation developed new programming to meet the needs of people looking to celebrate two hundred years of American history. Greenfield Village and Henry Ford Museum launched a vigorous calendar of Bicentennial events, activities, and exhibits that attracted record attendance in 1976.
Greenfield Village and Henry Ford Museum presented a rich slate of Revolutionary War-era activities over Independence Day weekend in 1976. Costumed re-enactors demonstrated military maneuvers and period crafts; musicians played fife and drum concerts. At 2:00 p.m. on the Fourth of July, as thousands of bells across the nation rang in unison, a replica of the Liberty Bell in the museum's clock tower pealed along with them.
At homes across the nation in 1976, people painted their mailboxes with patriotic symbols and celebrated with backyard barbecues. A family in suburban Iowa used this table cover on their picnic table for summer meals during the Bicentennial.
Many Americans donned red, white, and blue to commemorate the Bicentennial. These patriotic shorts, worn during the celebration, include historic revolutionary icons in a contemporary aesthetic.
Della May Morris, a quilter all her life, created this quilt for the National Grange Bicentennial Quilt Contest. Morris and her family designed the 18 detailed Revolutionary War scenes, which earned a third-place finish.
Capitalizing on Bicentennial fever, manufacturers marketed consumer goods with patriotic themes. Many commemorative souvenirs incorporated revolutionary-era symbols of freedom. This mug depicts the liberty bell in a design that mimics traditional cross-stitch embroidery.
American railroads joined in the celebration of the United States Bicentennial in 1976. Nearly every line painted at least one locomotive or caboose in a patriotic red, white and blue livery. The Detroit, Toledo & Ironton's bicentennial locomotive, an EMD GP 38-2, was given the number "1776" -- a popular choice for other locomotives in the nation's "Bicentennial Fleet."