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The United States Bicentennial was celebrated on Sunday, July 4, 1976. It is the 200th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence.

Contents

Coins

In October 1973, the Treasury announced an open contest to select suitable designs for the quarter, half dollar, and silver dollar. Over 1,000 designs were submitted. The quarter dollar featured a colonial drummer and a torch encircled by thirteen stars, designed by Jack L. Ahr. The half dollar has Independence Hall on it, designed by Seth G. Huntington. On the silver dollar, designed by Dennis R. Williams, was the Liberty Bell superimposed over the Moon. These coins bore the date "1776-1976". A Two-dollar bill (200 cents, for 200 years, and Series dated 1976) was issued with a new reverse featuring the Founding Fathers signing the Declaration of Independence. This marks the first time this denomination was ever printed as a Federal Reserve Note. The U.S. Postal Service issued several postage stamps to commemorate the 200th anniversary of various national events connected to the U.S. Bicentennial. It was also the first time in the history of the United States Postal Service that they provided service at select post offices throughout the country on a Sunday.

Flag

A special Bicentennial Flag, with a purple background and the official Bicentennial Star Emblem, was also displayed or flown as part of honor guards and flag poles throughout the United States during the Bicentennial era, usually to the left or below the American Flag.

Events

Official Bicentennial events actually began more than one year earlier. On April 1, 1975 the American Freedom Train opened in Wilmington, DE to start its 21 month, 25,388 mile tour of the 48 contiguous states. On April 18, 1975 President Gerald Ford came to Boston to light a third lantern at the historic Old North Church, symbolizing America's third century. The next day he delivered a major speech commemorating the 200th anniversary of the Battles of Lexington and Concord in Massachusetts, which began the American Revolution against British colonial rule. A US Bicentennial postage stamp featuring a painting of the battles by Henry Sandham (1842-1912) was issued that same day to commemorate the milestone.

Festivities included elaborate fireworks displays in the skies above major American cities. Those in Washington, D.C. were presided over by President Ford and televised nationally. A large international fleet of tall-masted sailing ships gathered first in New York City on the Fourth of July and then in Boston about one week later. These nautical parades, witnessed by several million observers, were named Operation Sail (Op Sail) and this was the second of five such Op Sail events to date (1964, 1976, 1986, 1992 and 2000). The vessels docked and allowed the general public to board the ships in both cities, while their sailors were entertained on shore at various ethnic celebrations and parties.

As the celebration of the Boston Tea Party happened in Boston, a large crowd gathered for the "People's Bi-Centennial". Several people threw packages labelled "Gulf Oil" and "Exxon" into Boston Harbor in symbolic opposition to corporate power.[1]

Queen Elizabeth II of United Kingdom and her husband, Prince Philip, made a special state visit to the USA to tour the country and attend Bicentennial festivities with President and Mrs. Ford. Their visit aboard the Royal Yacht Britannia included stops in Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Virginia, New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts.

Local observances included painting mailboxes and fire hydrants red, white, and blue. A wave of patriotism and nostalgia swept the nation and there was a general feeling that the irate era of the Vietnam War and the Watergate constitutional crisis of 1974 had finally come to an end.

In Washington, D.C., the Smithsonian Institution opened a long-term exhibition in its Arts and Industries Building that replicated the look and feel of the 1876 Centennial Exposition of the United States. Many of its museum belongings actually dated from the 1876 World's Fair exposition in Philadelphia that commemorated the 100th anniversary of the independence of the USA. The Smithsonian also opened the permanent exhibition hall for the National Air and Space Museum on July 1, 1976.

NASA commemorated the Bicentennial by staging a science and technology exhibit housed in a series of geodesic domes in the parking lot of the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) called Third Century America. An American flag and the Bicentennial emblem were also painted on the side of the VAB; the emblem remained until 1998, when it was painted over with the NASA insignia. NASA originally planned for Viking 1 to land on Mars on July 4, but the landing was delayed to July 20th, the anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing. On the anniversary of the signing of the Constitution, NASA held the rollout ceremony of the first space shuttle (which NASA had planned to name the Constitution).

Douglas DC-8 of Overseas National Airways in US Bicentennial special livery

Many commercial products were marketed in packages tying them to the Bicentennial, usually distinguished by red, white, and blue coloring. The official Bicentennial star emblem was trademarked and only allowed to be used on products by paid license.

Disneyland temporarily replaced the Main Street Electrical Parade with America on Parade and featured the Sherman Brothers' song "The Glorious Fourth". The parade featured nightly fireworks and ran twice a day from 1975-1977.

John Warner, later elected to the United States Senate from Virginia, was director of the Federal office coordinating observances of the Bicentennial.

The State of New Jersey ran a special "Bicentennial Lottery". The winner was awarded $1,776 a week (before taxes) for 20 years (A total of $1,847,040).

The USOC initiated two American bids to host both the 1976 Summer and Winter Olympic Games to celebrate Bicentennial. Los Angeles bid for the 1976 Olympics but lost to Montreal, Canada. Denver was awarded the 1976 Olympic Winter Games in 1970, but due to rising costs, the state of Colorado voted to back out of its organizational commitments and the IOC rewarded the 1976 Winter Olympics to Innsbruck, Austria, host of 1964. As a result, there was no American Olympics in 1976 (however Lake Placid would go on to host the 1980 Winter Olympics, and Los Angeles would eventually be awarded the 1984 Olympics.

As site of the Continental Congress and signing of the Declaration of Independence, Philadelphia was selected to host the 1976 NBA All-Star Game, the 1976 National Hockey League All-Star Game, the 1976 NCAA Final Four, and the 1976 Major League Baseball All-Star Game at which President Ford threw out the first-pitch.[2]

The Bicentennial on television

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Related network television programs aired July 3-4, 1976

Saturday morning Bicentennial programs

In the months approaching the Bicentennial, Schoolhouse Rock, a series of educational cartoon shorts running on ABC between programs on Saturday mornings, created a sub-series called "History Rock," although the official name was "America Rock." The ten segments covered various aspects of American history and government. Several of the segments, most notably one dealing with the preamble of the Constitution put to music, have become some of Schoolhouse Rock's most popular segments.

And in 1975, CBS did its bit on Saturday morning with a new animated Archie series, The U.S. of Archie; unfortunately, that version was unsuccessful, and was off the air by September 1976.

Gallery

See also

References

External links


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