Happy Birthday, America! Remembering America’s Bicentennial

*Post written by James Wethington, library assistant of the University Archives and Special Collections.

Red, White, and Blue Logo of the American Revolution Bicentennial, 1776-1976. Credit: Wikipedia

Logo of the American Revolution Bicentennial, 1976. Credit: Wikipedia

This year, America celebrates her 241st birthday: that is quite an accomplishment; however, just like milestone birthday, people go all out to celebrate. Similar things happened for America’s 200th, or Bicentennial, in 1976. Today, let us get ready to travel back in time to 1976 and compare the times.

American Revolution Bicentennial Commission (1966-1973) and American Revolution Bicentennial Commission (1973-1977) first planned the American Bicentennial. The commissions of both organizations were to develop and plan various events through 1976 to honor the 200th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence (National Archives, 2016). Throughout the United States, various events occurred such as a Bicentennial Wagon Train (Blaine, Washington to Valley Forge, PA), Operation Sail, numerous state visits from Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, numerous major league sporting events, and many more (Wikipedia, 2017).

Student worker, Josh Knecht, holding a American Bicentennial flag from the Ken McCutchan collection, 1976. Credit: James Wethington

Student worker, Josh Knecht, holding a American Bicentennial flag from the Ken McCutchan collection, 1976. Credit: James Wethington

The United States has changed tremendously since 1976. Lets take a quick look:

  • President and Vice-President: Gerald Ford and Nelson Rockefeller
  • Highest Grossing Film: Rocky
  • Top Song: Silly Love Songs (Paul McCartney and Wings)
  • Super Bowl Champion: Pittsburgh Steelers
  • Stanley Cup Champion: Montreal Canadians
  • NBA Champion: Boston Celtics
  • World Series Champion: Cincinnati Reds
  • NCAA Division 1 Men’s Basketball Champion: Indiana Hoosiers
  • Summer and Winter Olympics were held in Montreal, Canada and Innsbruck, Austria.
Left to Right: Queen Elizabeth II of England, dancing with then-U.S. President, Gerald Ford, during a state visit, 1976. Credit: https://geraldrfordfoundation.org/centennial/media/1976-bicentennial-celebrations/

Queen Elizabeth II of England dancing with then-U.S. President Gerald Ford, during a state visit in 1976. Credit: https://geraldrfordfoundation.org/centennial/media/1976-bicentennial-celebrations/

In close, as we begin to celebrate the 4th of July, please be safe and remember that our freedom came at a cost. Gerald Ford stated on July 4th in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania: “As we continue our American adventure…all our heroes and heroines of war and peace send us this single, urgent message: though prosperity is a good thing, though compassionate charity is a good thing, though institutional reform is a good thing, a nation survives only so long as the spirit of sacrifice and self-discipline is strong within its people. Independence has to be defended as well as declared; freedom is always worth fighting for; and liberty ultimately belongs only to those willing to suffer for it” (Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum, 2007).


Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum. (2007, February 12). Gerald R. Ford quotes. Retrieved from https://www.fordlibrarymuseum.gov/grf/quotes.asp

National Archives and Records Administration. (2016, August 15). Records of the American Revolution Bicentennial Administration. Retrieved from https://www.archives.gov/research/guide-fed-records/groups/452.html

Wikipedia. (2017, 11 June). United States Bicentennial. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Bicentennial

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