You've heard the story of having Christmas everyday?
Well, imagine it being the 4th of July everyday.
Well, imagine it being the 4th of July everyday.
That's exactly what it was like to be alive in the United States in 1976, the year America
celebrated its 200th birthday.
That Spirit of '76 reigns within me;
it did back in that Bicentennial year of 1976, and it still does today.
So for this 4th of July Passion for the Past post, I'm remembering that time, nearly 50 years ago...
Some of the collectibles you are about to see are in my personal collection,
while others I found on the internet.
|(Above picture is courtesy Chris White)|
|Even Bicentennial beer!|
|The official Bicentennial logo|
The plans for the Bicentennial began when Congress created the American Revolution Bicentennial Commission on July 4, 1966. Initially, the Bicentennial celebration was planned as a single city exposition (titled "Expo '76") that would be staged in either Philadelphia or Boston. After 6½ years of tumultuous debate, the Commission recommended that there should not be a single event, and Congress dissolved it on December 11, 1973, and created the American Revolution Bicentennial Administration (ARBA), which was charged with encouraging and coordinating locally sponsored events. The Bicentennial was celebrated only a year after the withdrawal from Vietnam in 1975 and President Gerald Ford's administration stressed the themes of renewal and rebirth based on a restoration of traditional values, giving a nostalgic and exclusive reading of the American past.
|President Ford at Independence Hall|
on July 4, 1976.
On April 18, 1975, President Ford visited the Old North Church in Boston, Massachusetts, where he lit a third lantern in recognition of the country’s third century (to add to the two that were lit on the night of April 18, 1775 to notify the riders of the march of the Regular Army on Lexington and Concord). He then delivered a major address at Lexington and Concord commemorating the 200th anniversary of the battles that spurred the Revolutionary War:
(Ford's speech, in part): Two hundred years ago tonight, two lanterns hung in the belfry of this Old North Church. Those lanterns signaled patriots on the other side of the Charles River British troops were moving by water. As Longfellow said in his poem: "One if by land, and two if by sea."
Paul Revere, William Dawes, Samuel Prescott rode into the night, alerting the colonists the British were coming. When day broke, according to the diaries of the time, the sky was clear and blue...
Tonight we stand in tribute to those who stood for liberty and for us two centuries ago. Tonight, we bow our heads in memory of those who gave their lives, their limbs, their property for us during that historic struggle, because tonight we begin as a nation and as a people the celebration of our Bicentennial."
Official Bicentennial events culminated on July 4, 1976, the 200th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. On this day, President Ford and his daughter, Susan, first travelled to Pennsylvania where he spoke at Valley Forge, then they proceeded to Independence Hall in Philadelphia, where the President signed the Bicentennial Day Declaration, which reaffirmed a commitment to the principles of liberty, justice, and freedom that were first laid out in the Declaration of Independence. Following that, Ford and his daughter flew to New York Harbor where First Lady Betty Ford also joined them to celebrate Operation Sail, an international naval review of ships sent by the navies of numerous countries. The day ended in DC, where President and Mrs. Ford watched fireworks from the White House Balcony.
And then something I had forgotten about: on July 6, 1976, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip of Great Britain toured Philadelphia, the District of Columbia, Virginia, New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts. On behalf of the British people, the Queen gifted to the United States the Bicentennial Bell, a replica of the Liberty Bell that hangs at Independence Hall in Philadelphia.
Full circle indeed!
I collected numerous bicentennial items during that celebratory time, but, unfortunately, many of my collectibles I had to more recently re-purchase because I got rid of a bunch of stuff in the early 1990s when my wife and I were going through some hard financial times. Other items, such as the Liberty Bell replica you see below, I've never had in my original collection but saw in my searches and thought it looked cool - which it does - so I purchased it, and it fits in perfectly with my other Bicentennial / Revolutionary War Americana items. Once 'my time' comes and I pass on, I hope my kids will appreciate and want some of what I have in my personal collection. I would love to have my treasures passed down to my grandkids and, perhaps, their own's children's children's children.
By the way, a little history lesson on the Liberty Bell:
the bell was first made in 1752 for the Pennsylvania State House, now known as Independence Hall. The bell was cast in London, England, and shipped to Pennsylvania. Soon after it arrived, the bell cracked. In 1753, a new bell was cast from the same metal by John Pass and John Stow (hence, why "Pass and Stow" are engraved on the bell).
There is widespread disagreement about when the first crack appeared on the Bell. Hair-line cracks on bells were bored out to prevent expansion. Because the metal was too brittle, the Liberty Bell cracked during a test strike and had to be recast twice. The final version—made of 70 percent copper, 25 percent tin and small amounts of lead, zinc, arsenic, gold and silver—weighed around 2,080 pounds and measured 12 feet in circumference around the lip and 3 feet from lip to crown. There is a story that says on July 8, 1776, the bell was rung to celebrate the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence. However, the steeple was in bad condition and historians today question the likelihood of the story. That's not saying it didn't happen, for bells were rung throughout the land everywhere the Declaration was first read, and that very well could have included the Liberty Bell as well.
A popular icon of the new nation and its independence, it wasn’t called the “Liberty Bell” until the 1830s, when an abolitionist group adopted it as a symbol of their own cause.
However, it is agreed that the final expansion of the crack which rendered the Bell unringable was on Washington's Birthday in 1846.
And 200 years later, the Queen of England gives US a replica!
Yep---everyone seemed to catch the Bicentennial fever!
Everywhere one looked were people wearing the red, white, and blue, whether color-coded clothing or by American flag design. Mailboxes were also painted our national colors, or to look like tiny log cabins, or perhaps had other patriotic symbols.
And beer cans - - yes, even beer cans celebrated!
And so did rock and rollers.
|How rock and rollers celebrated the Bicentennial~|
Yep, the United States of America had caught the
And I remember it clearly...
I was asked earlier this spring from a Greenfield Village presenter friend what the Bicentennial was like, and around the same time I also had a talk with a teacher friend I work with who also wondered about that grand year of 1976. Both were born after the Bicentennial, and so this old man (lol) told them some of my memories. I told of how the entire country celebrated as one, and that patriotism was at an all-time high, even among the alternative types, including hippies, rock-n-rollers, and the early punk rockers.
After my conversations with those two, um, youngsters, that's when the idea to do this posting came to me:
When I was younger, so much younger than today, while in my pre-teen and teen years, it seemed from the early 1970s through the end of 1976 (and less & less into '77 and '78), wherever you turned there was something being written about our colonial roots and of the Revolutionary War, with the focus being on the year 1776. Newspapers had articles sometimes daily, sometimes weekly. The TV had American history programming frequently as well - does anyone else remember "Bicentennial Minutes"? But, with me "coming out of the womb into history" (my mother's own words - not mine) I also loved to read books that were about the 18th century. A particular favorite was The Cabin Faced West by Jean Fritz, which gave a pretty accurate account of everyday life on the frontier that eventually became western Pennsylvania ca 1780's. I remember being a kid and pretending that I was living with the Hamilton family: our dank and dark basement 'became' the cabin (and it had a real fireplace to boot, which made it all the more "real" in my mind), and the over-grown brush behind our garage was the frontier.
I had a great time!
Obviously, this big historical deal played a major role in my youth, for here we are, nearly 50 years later and my memory of the time and of the celebration is still strong.
|I did love the play on words with this ad.|
And I did order myself a Boy Howdy! t-shirt,
now lost to time...
Besides my favorite rock and roll magazines doing their part to celebrate, the Detroit News and the Detroit Free Press newspapers had weekly articles and special multi-page inserts about America's (and Detroit's) colonial period. And Time, Newsweek, Life, and the Saturday Evening Post devoted entire issues of their magazines to the bicentennial. I would immerse myself in the written words therein. I still have some of the newspapers and magazines that I saved for all these years, and a friend found a few at a garage sale and gave them to me, all yellowed and fragile...but like gold to me.
|There were even Bicentennial Quarters!|
The shows on TV during that historical year showed the movies and documentaries of America's birth, and even including the aforementioned 'Bicentennial Minute,' where during commercial breaks, a series of short educational American television segments commemorating the bicentennial would be shown. The segments were produced by the CBS Television Network and broadcast nightly from July 4, 1974, until December 31, 1976, and it all swept me away into the past.
Then there were the Colonial themed festivals and parades that took place where I could see and hear the fife & drum corps, as well as reenactors of the time portraying Revolutionary War soldiers and colonial citizens.
|Parades were had in nearly every city, town, and village throughout America.|
I went to all the local small-town parades.
Virtually every museum across America held their own special commemorations, including Michigan's own Greenfield Village and Henry Ford Museum. Yes, they most certainly did get in on the Bicentennial action:
|Oh! To have been able to visit that special year!|
|No, this is not taken at Independence Hall in Philadelphia -|
this is the front façade of the Henry Ford Museum, an exact replica!
The Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village launched its own vigorous calendar of Bicentennial activities, exhibits, and events. A special exhibit, The Struggle and the Glory, included more than 250 Revolutionary-period maps, prints, letters, and objects that told the story of America's struggle to become an independent nation. In this exhibit, visitors got a close-up look at an original Paul Revere engraving of the 1770 Boston Massacre. They gazed at a letter written by General George Washington and saw the camp bed he slept in during the latter part of the Revolution.
And here are a few pictures of some of the items that were a part of the Henry Ford Museum's Bicentennial display of The Struggle and the Glory:
Well, check this out:
Pictured here is a coffee pot made by Paul Revere between 1755 to 1765.
For more information on Revere's famous ride, please click HERE
On January 9, 1776, writer Thomas Paine published his pamphlet "Common Sense," setting forth his arguments in favor of American independence.
|A portable writing desk from about 1787 once belonging to Thomas Jefferson.|
I remember begging my parents to take me to Greenfield Village to witness their Bicentennial celebration. After reading of the activities advertised in the papers, it was something I desperately wanted - no...absolutely needed - to see! According to the "Telling America's Story" book:
The apex of festivities occurred on the July 4th weekend with the presentation of a rich slate of Revolutionary War-era activities. For three days, costumed reenactors demonstrated military maneuvers and period crafts; musicians played fife & drum concerts...
At 2:00 p.m. on the Fourth of July, bells rang out in communities nationwide. As four thousand people gathered in front of Henry Ford Museum, the replica of the Liberty Bell in the museum's clock tower pealed along with thousands of other bells across the nation.
|The handout from Greenfield Village where "Independence |
Weekend, July 3-5, drew more than 43,000 visitors."
Got chills yet?
Alas, I did not get to go.
|This is not a picture of my pin,|
but I do have one!
But my friend Ken Roberts, long-time Revolutionary War reenactor, did, and he told me first-hand how it was, for he was one of the participants who took part at Greenfield Village. He explained that there were so many people there that they could not hold a proper battle enactment; the soldiers had to point their muskets toward the sky - nearly straight up in some cases - as to not hurt any of the Village visitors.
Ken also mentioned that there were so many visitors there that they were parking cars clear down to the Southfield Freeway and shuttling people to the entrance gate.
My friend, Tony, was also there:
"On Sunday, July 4, 1976, I was ten years old. My family had joined the 1st Pennsylvania Regiment and I was the drummer. We all marched out in front of the Henry Ford Museum and various people gave speeches.
One of the things that stick out to me is that the Detroit TV weatherman, Sonny Eliot, did his weather forecast on Friday or Saturday evening at Greenfield Village wearing a British bearskin hat and holding a pike."
When I think about it now, I can only imagine the frustration and probable anger emanating from my Dad if we did go to there to celebrate our 200th birthday, given the overcrowding. I can just imagine my Dad's attempt to hold in his anger. I'm sure it probably would not have been much fun for any of us, and my hopes for a historical celebration of the Bicentennial would have been dashed.
|If I did go to Greenfield Village, I just might have asked my parents to purchase |
this as a souvenir.
Nearly 50 years after the fact and I now have one, thanks to eBay.
So I didn't get to go to Greenfield Village for the Bicentennial. It's okay. Really. My psychologist says I'll be over it soon (lol - seriously...just kidding).
One thing I learned about years later was that Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, one of my favorite bands, recorded a song called "American Girl" on that 4th of July in '76. Now this was before he had any releases of note - his first album, of which the song would be a part of, would not be released until November of that year.
Am I stretching it a bit here? Possibly...still kinda cool...
|Love this serving tray - a great way to celebrate!|
How about this Coke commercial:
|Happy birthday America from Coca Cola!|
|A frisbee, of all things!|
Gotta love it!
Our state license plates:
|How cool is this?|
Michigan had the coolest and most patriotic license plate ever!
In fact, after looking at all the 1976 states plates, Michigan and Illinois had the best.
I still have my dad's (though it's in rough shape)~
|The Saturday Evening Post even included an|
original article by Benjamin Franklin!
Yes, thee Benjamin Franklin!
|I never did get these stamps but now I wish I did.|
How many of you remember Skylab?
|Let's start the celebration off right!|
I fondly remember the following advertisement as well (regular readers have seen this in my blog multiple times).
The history of Crossroads goes back to the late 1960's when people living in the Genesee County area, situated around an hour north of Detroit, were concerned that so much of their local history was being torn down.
We married in 1985, and as we started having children, we took them along with us on our historical jaunts to the Villages and to reenactments:
Here is the original 1975 / 76 advertisement
from the Saturday Evening post.
It was also in Life, Time, and Newsweek.
I wanted the lantern so bad!!
The Limited Edition Collector's Society, with the approval and blessings of the Concord Antiquarian Society, arranged for the meticulous production of a limited number of certified, authentic copies of the Paul Revere/Old North Church Lantern. According to the Limited Edition Collector's Society, there are only two aspects of the lantern in which the reproductions are not absolutely faithful to the original:
First, they were not individually hand-made by a craftsman, for this would have raised the price much higher than what was charged in 1975.
Second, metals such as sterling silver and pewter were used instead of the impure sheet iron in which the originals were made. Again, this was due to cost as well as the fact that the old metals would rust over time, as has the original.
These Bicentennial lanterns were meant to be high-quality heirlooms keepsakes, and when I saw this advertisement, I yearned to own one, not only because of its significance in our nation's history and founding, but because of its association with my hero (then and now), Paul Revere. But the cheapest lantern at the time was $95. For a 15 year old in 1975/76 it might as well been a thousand dollars - 'twas far out of my price range. Over time I had forgotten about this awesome collectible.
A few decades and a new century later, in 2014, I then, totally out of the blue, had a memory jog...so I began my search for this replicated Old North Church lantern, using something that was not around all those years before: the internet, and it was while combing the 'net, that I would find the lanterns here and there, though not very often, and they would usually be priced way out of my reach, oftentimes in the thousand dollar range. As cool as they were - and how badly I still wanted one - I simply could not justify spending such a price.
So I kept searching...searching...searching...until I happened across one on Craig's List (I never go on Craig's List! Why did I go on it on this particular day? Maybe it was meant to be...). I contacted the person selling it and he told me that he was now in his 80's and since his children were uninterested he thought he'd sell it off and make a little money.
The price was pretty darn cheap when compared to others I've seen, roughly $200, and I became excited. Maybe, finally, I might own one of these awesome replicated lanterns I've wanted for all these years! The seller also mentioned that a couple clips that held the glass were broken off and two panes of glass were missing as well. Because of this he gave me an even better deal.
I asked him why he was willing to part with the lantern after 40 years, and he wrote back with, "My last birthday brought me to 83 and the realization that it's time to find new homes for some of my life's impulsive acquisitions. My children's interests lie elsewhere, negating them as the willful beneficiaries."
Lucky for me, I suppose, but also kind of sad in a way. I certainly wish I had more of my own father's "impulsive acquisitions."
But, it was his children's loss, and now it is my unbelievable gain, and for that I'm thankful. Very much so, for I remembered the advertisements and thinking back then how great it would be to have something like this.
It now sits in a place of honor in my house: directly above me on my computer desk shelf, right beside a replicated 1775 powder horn.
My replicated Old North Church Lantern from 1975...with a lit candle.
And they put out some pretty extensive American History books as commemorations, such as this one (that I purchased used about 20 years ago):
|"200 Years: A Bicentennial Illustrated History of the United States."|
With a slipcase to boot!
If you look close you can see the indentation 1776 - in one book,
and 1976 in the other.
And the slightly (?) unusual or, perhaps, off beat, but nonetheless very-cool-to-someone-like-me collectible:
|Yes, it's a Bicentennial coal scuttle!|
Hopefully you can read what's written on the shovel there on the right.
By the way, do you see the little painting of the cannon there on the left?
One of my students painted it for me as an end-of-the-school-year gift.
Tell me that's not cool!
I suppose this is just about as down-home cookin' as one could get in 1976!
|Front & back~|
I remember my mom buying this!
Why oh why did I not keep such a cool item?
So...guess what I found and ordered on eBay?
There was also a replica of an old 18th century sailing vessel that blew through the Great Lakes, and I remember standing on the bluff overlooking Lake Huron, using my grandfather's old blue telescope to see it.
And a Bicentennial Wagon Train made its way from the West Coast to Valley Forge to celebrate the nation's 200th birthday as well.
|In this photo, the coaches crossed the Allegheny River in Pittsburgh, |
less than 300 miles away from its final destination.
Many localized historical societies were born out of the Bicentennial celebrations...or pre-celebration. It seems that the 200th anniversary of the United States declaring Independence from England certainly speared quite a national pride in America's history, and not just on the east coast. Beginning in the late 1960s and continuing on throughout the following decade, historical societies were formed, and historic preservation seemed to become a national past time. Nearly every village, town, and city began to preserve their historic structures which then became a source of pride for the citizens. For instance, my own hometown of East Detroit (now Eastpointe) formed the East Detroit Historical Society and, a few years after the celebrations restored and preserved the 1872 school house. Though they had no historic preservation at the time the society was formed in 1975, it was in the early 1980s that they rediscovered the Halfway Schoolhouse, which was built in 1872 and used as such until 1921.
|This beautifully restored School House in Eastpointe is 150 years old this year of 2022!|
After it's rediscovery by the East Detroit Historical Society - and more specifically, John Gardiner (for the old school house was purchased after closing in 1921 and relocated a few blocks away to be used as a warehouse), the then current East Detroit School District purchased the building and move it back to within 20 yards of the original site on September 4th, 1984.
Other towns were able to acquire numerous historic buildings and even put them in a village-like setting, such as Mill Race Village in Northville, to add to this awareness of the past, thus creating smaller open-air museums - park-like areas in which the local (and usually more prominent) historic structures were removed to. I cannot speak for other states, but I can say that here in Michigan we have numerous smaller, more localized open-air museums and many restored individual buildings dotting the landscape and city scape. And they are fine places to visit to enjoy history in a more intimate setting.
|Mill Race was initially created back in 1972 by the Northville Historical Society and was built upon land donated to the City of Northville by the Ford Motor Company. Originally the site of the city's first gristmill (hence the name Mill Race), it is now home to 11 historic structures, all from the general surrounding area of Northville.|
Then Genesee County (near Flint in Michigan's thumb) actually created a smaller Michigan version of Greenfield Village:
|Crossroads Village: showing later 19th century Michigan town life...|
There was also the realization that the rural traditional crafts, skills, and equipment of a century earlier was also being lost to time, so a proposal to build a museum dedicated to farming life was proposed.
Eventually, the concept of merging farm life with rural 19th century village life came to the forefront and, by the summer of 1973, the County Board of Supervisors adopted the idea of creating a rural country town, common in the last half of the 1800's. With the Bicentennial fast approaching, plans for this Crossroads Village evolved from the common characteristics of the rural villages that used to dot Genesee County as shown in the 1875 Atlas of Genesee County.
By the time it's grand opening dedication took place on July 4, 1976, just over a dozen buildings had been relocated onto the land.
It now has over 30 structures.
|Crossroads Village mainly shows rural Michigan farm life of the 19th century.|
There is also the Navarre–Anderson Trading Post:
The complex was originally located several miles downstream in the present-day Old Village Historic District. When advancing development threatened this historical complex, it was moved in 1894 and again in 1971. The complex was restored back to its appearance from what it looked like 1799.
It was listed as a Michigan Historic Site on June 16, 1972, and also listed on the National Register of Historic Places on July 31, 1972.
The Trading Post complex was established to represent a French pioneer homestead along the old River Raisin, with the main building, the 1789, being the oldest wooden structure still standing in the state, according to the historical marker. It is the most complete example of French-Canadian piece-sur-piece construction in the Old Northwest. It has been restored to about 1797. It was moved from its original Monroe site in 1894. In 1969, its history was discovered.
Other buildings include the Navarre-Morris 1810 cookhouse (also seen in this picture), and a replica 1790’s French-Canadian style barn.
I believe the renewed interest was pushed a bit harder due to the Bicentennial as well. Let's have everything ready for July 4th, 1976!!
Then there is the Selinsky-Green Farm House (from the late 1860s), which is possibly another that was born out of the spirit of '76, though I believe fate also played a role:
|The Selinsky-Green House was saved from certain demolition due to the building of the I-696 freeway. It was moved to its present location in 1974 and is owned by the City of St. Clair Shores under the direction of its Historical Commission. It is listed in the Michigan state register of historic sites.|
So...how about me?
What did I do on that most terrific of Independence Day holidays back in 1976?
|This was not taken on July 4, 1976,|
but it is was taken in the town of Lexington,
Michigan during one of their firework extravaganzas.
Well, I spent most of my day at the beach, for we had a family cottage where we spent much of our summers. That's where I was instead of Greenfield Village, which turned out to be a memory-filled amazing time for me regardless. And it was on the evening of that same 4th of July that we drove to the tiny Village of Lexington (Michigan - not Massachusetts) four miles from our cottage where we saw a star-spangled fireworks display, and what I remember most from that extravaganza occurred during the grand finale when the illuminations formed a fireworks version of the Statue of Liberty. Everyone - I mean everyone - was in awe of this. Then afterward we made our way back to the cottage - such a traffic jam! - and to the bonfire a-waiting at the beach, where my brother's friend Mark, my brother's girlfriend (at the time - soon to be his wife) Gina, and myself played our guitars to a swarm of patriotic Independence Day revelers...mostly hippie-types who were ready for a patriotic revelry.
So, yeah, that 4th of July we really had the biggest and best beach bonfire ever. I was so excited to play a part as well with my guitar, playing acoustic music by Crosby, Stills, and Nash, Cat Stevens, Arlo Guthrie, Led Zeppelin, Neil Young, The Beatles, and a particular favorite, Wot's, Uh, The Deal by Pink Floyd, among many others, and more localized fireworks, including the booming M-80s, going off all around us.
Oh! If only we had taken pictures of that night!
But, without realizing it, we did much of what founding father John Adams hoped back in 1776: "It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Act of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade with shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of the Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more."
It was a thrill...
I believe what you see in this next picture happened the week following the Glorious Fourth...right near the area of the big bonfire:
On the beach near our cottage, a longtime friend of my older brother and sister - Andy Anderson (who was quite the artist) - sculpted this Eagle in the sand within days following the 4th. Everyone admired it and walked from all over the subdivision to the cliff on the banks of Lake Huron to see it.
The coolest thing?
Not one person touched it - - no one ran through it or ruined it in any way. It actually remained for a few days before nature took its course and the wind and the waves of Lake Huron claimed it.
I will never forget it, and am so glad we have a picture!
Let me tell you, for a 15 year old history kid like me, all of this was like heaven.
And here are the ways a few others celebrated that year:
Barb B. wrote:
Barb B. wrote:
"My bicentennial Fourth of July was spent sightseeing and watching fireworks in Galveston, Texas. We were camping on Galveston Island, so we watched the fireworks over the Gulf of Mexico on the 4th. That was my summer of eight weeks of camping across America with two female friends."
|Pat's Bicentennial quilt.|
Pat H. -
"In honor of the bicentennial in 1976, I made my first quilt that summer. I wanted to do something to remember the event. I bought all of the material at Hudson's in Northland Mall. The fabric in several of the squares is navy with white eagles which I chose so I would remember the year I made it. It is a simple quilt. My dear neighbor next door to us in Detroit showed me how to tie the quilt like she did in her youth. I still have the quilt."
Debbie P. -
I was 15 at the time of the Bicentennial. I was into sewing and made historical dresses for my mom, both grandmothers, and myself. I still remember my fabric had a white background with pink rosebuds scattered all over. It had a partial overskirt and "fluttery" sleeves. I loved it!
Steve F. -
One thing I did at the Bicentennial was visit Guilford Courthouse (Greensboro, North Carolina), then later at a family picnic (and) let folks shoot my flintlock longrifle (that) I'd recently scratch built from lock, barrel, brass hardware, and a big slab of maple cut from a tree on our land. Flint arms weren't as common in those days as now! It was a little crude being my first effort, but was a special treat, especially since it was live fire. I hand cast my own round balls in a mould, dipping lead from a lead pot heated over an open fire.
At the picnic we had fried hand pies made from home dried apples from our old apple trees and country ham from our smokehouse and handcranked ice cream, and real lemonade.
I had a repro of the Guilford Courthouse flag that I flew!
I did have a tricorn, refashioned from an old cowboy hat. We've come a long way in having artisans supporting living history since then.
Anna J. -
I dressed up in my Butterick colonial dress and went down to the courthouse for the celebration (in Marysville, California, which had one high school, and agriculture was the biggest industry). There were a lot of speeches and the high school band performed. I don’t remember much; it was very crowded. Then we went to my grandparents' to swim until dark and fireworks.
I was 13 and spent the day at Greenfield Village and the Henry Ford Museum. My sister and I had great fun singing "But Mr Adams" up and down the tower stairs in the museum. At 2 pm, there was a ceremony in front of the museum. The highlight was groups of Rev War reenactors (Tony Gerring was one of them!). Later that day there was a battle in the Walnut Grove. I was amazed! Here were men who dressed up in period clothes and carried period muskets. They actually lived and ate and slept just like they did a long time ago. I thought, "Wow! That has got to be the world's coolest hobby!"
Christine B. -
I was in San Francisco, California with mum, dad, sister and brothers dropping off older brother for a job opportunity he had with an underwater diving crew. I remember the city being busy, hilly and interesting. My dad drove us on a very curvy road surrounded with flowers.
|Taken at Gettysburg July 1976 - |
that's Eddie behind the guns.
Lynn K. -
We have a lot of memories from July 4, 1976.
It was an exciting time for our family. We moved in our home with our two sons one day before we left for Gettysburg. Boxes everywhere but we managed to find our Civil War items.
We had a wonderful time in Gettysburg - Eddie was with the 17th Michigan and they fell in with the Mudsills. Eddie said when walking down the dirt roads, with the dust everywhere, it felt as if we had time traveled. This was one of our first major re-enactments so we were in awe over the scale and huge numbers of reenactors.
Yes, we did see the fireworks - I remember watching from a parking lot in town.
Paul C. -
I was (at Greenfield Village) participating in the 3-day Bicentennial Event as a member of one of the Crown Forces re-enactment units that put up 18th C. camps, performed live musket/rifle firing competitions, (and took part in) battle re-enactments on the Village Green.
Christy H. -
Oh, how I loved the Spirit of ‘76 Art!
I remembered it so well... that was my High School Graduation Year! The Art was everywhere at school, Bloomfield Hills Lahser High! We had Spirit, yes we did! The summer was so exciting, with all the festivities. At the end of the summer I started a new chapter and was off to College at Eastern Michigan University, too!
Lynn A. -
On July 4, 1976, I was a member of CARES, the Citizens Aid Radio Emergency Service, and we were asked to assist Macomb County Sheriffs with traffic duty for the huge fireworks celebration at Metro Beach. So there I stood, at the corner of Crocker and Jefferson, directing hundreds of cars using nothing but my Kel-Lite (flashlight), my police uniform completely covered in fish flies! A sympathetic Sheriff Deputy saw my dilemma, and handed me a flare. Whoosh - no more fish flies!
Bill H. -
(At the Greenfield Village celebration) I was Commander of Crown Forces that weekend. We had encampments located throughout the village. The highlight was a ceremony in front of the museum. The weekend was actually a model for the "Colonial Life Festival" that ran for several years every August at the Village. I have a promotional video that was filmed by the village about the festival. The weekend was filled with various demonstrations of civilian and military life during the Revolution. I truly felt we were presenting one of the best Bicentennial events in the Midwest.
I appreciate each of you who gave me your stories. They really do help to round out the Bicentennial picture.
~How I've Been Celebrating since 1976~
Since the year of 1976 I've continued to love and expand on my passion for the past. I met a wonderful girl who also loved all things old and traditional. We had dates at Greenfield Village and Crossroads Village. We went antiquing together. And went to reenactments, including the now defunct Colonial Days event, which took place every year in early August.
|During the Colonial Days event at Greenfield Village.|
|The fife & drum parade...|
|I took more movies than pictures, unfortunately.|
|1997: Here are my three sons - someone had set up a "dress up" area where people|
could try on 18th century clothing. As you can see by their enthusiasm, my kids
The Colonial Days event went clear through the late 1990s. Then, sadly, they discontinued it.
I wish they'd bring it back.
Speaking of bringing things back - - - -
|Here we see the Banjo Man, who would play period 19th century tunes such as|
those written by the great Stephen Foster, as we observe the Suwanee Steamboat
comin' up around the bend..
Believe me when I say I would have a new one built if I ever won a large amount of Lotto money.
I honestly would.
And have it ready for the 250th!
There are vignettes at the Motor Muster Car Show held at Greenfield Village every year, and the good folks behind it all put together living dioramas around the classic cars on display throughout the Village. They've created vignettes of a life gone by to accent the hundreds of autos, beginning in the mid-1930s and going through the mid-1970s. So, you see, it's not just a simple parking lot car show one normally sees but, instead, it's more like a classic car living history event. And more recently Motor Muster planners have decided to include the essence of the bicentennial and does a sort of 'spirit of (19)76' revisited.
Here we see some "chick" getting into the red, white, and blue spirit herself.
Yes, we called girls "chicks" back then - even girls did.
I'd be afraid to say that today - - (lol)
It's strange for me to think that we are now at the cusp of celebrating the 250th anniversary of America's birth as a nation. The 200th anniversary just does not seem that long ago, and yet, it is.
But what is even stranger to me is seeing a sort of reenactment of a time that I remember!
So...why don't I feel old??
|Imagine...you are visiting Greenfield Village...and it is the summer of 1976 - the bicentennial celebration is in full bloom...and they have the 1st Michigan|
Fife & Drum Corps performing the "hits" of 200 years earlier...
What is unique and even sort of strange about this living history vignette is the fife & drums are reenacting the reenactors from 1976 who were reenacting those from 1776!
Did ya get that?
It reminds me of the Beatles song "Things We Said Today" which has a reverse nostalgia premise in that we’ll remember the things we said today, sometime in the future. So the song projects itself into the future to remember the past, which is now...here...today:
Someday when we're dreaming, deep in love, not a lot to say,
then we will remember things we said today.
Ha! My wife says this proves my mind works in ways unlike most normal people.
I would say she just might be right...
To add to this - - - a couple of the fife & drum performers on this day were
playing at this very spot in 1976, reenacting 1776!
In other words, they were reenacting themselves as reenactors!
Sort of like the "I'm My Own Grandpa" country novelty song.
And the celebrating continued...
The Miller Brewing Company is an American brewery and beer company in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It was founded in 1855 by Frederick Miller after his emigration from Hohenzollern, Germany in 1854. Miller Brewing Company continued to celebrate America's early history nearly two decades after the culmination of the Bicentennial with a set of "Birth of a Nation" beer steins. I did not collect these when they came out in the early 1990s, though I have them in my collection now.
I think they are very cool and very patriotic.
|From left we see a depiction of Paul Revere on his most famous of rides, the second stein is of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and the third on the right is Washington crossing the Delaware. There is a 4th stein in this series - The Lewis & Clark Expedition - but I have not gotten that one yet. For now I'm sticking with the first three, for that is my main area of interest. But maybe one day...|
By the way, if you are interested in seeing some of the other history-oriented "cool"ectables I own, please click HERE
|A vignette I created (based on|
another I had seen).
It is my hope that we can, as a nation, celebrate the upcoming sestercentennial. To be honest, I haven't heard much talk at all about it, except from myself and very few others, which causes me concern that there will be little fanfare. I mean, look at the meager remembrances for the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812 (the War that gave us the "Star-Spangled Banner"!). Greenfield Village had a commemoration for two years with hardly any advertising at all. The media all but ignored it.
So what will happen for the 250th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence?
Well, though I realize it would not be anywhere near what it was in 1976, I do have a fervent hope that at minimum there will be the same vim and vigor that occurred for the 150th Civil War, with historical reenactments, real and true programming, and some sort of a national celebration, perhaps maybe bordering the frolicking festivities that occurred in 1976!
And hopefully it will be a celebration and not a condemnation as what seems to be so popular in our culture today, for there are many who believe we do not concentrate enough on the plight of the Native Americans or of the black-held slaves. That may have been the case many, many years ago (before my schooling began in 1967), but in my own memory the two subjects had always been a part of my history readings and study, in school and on my own. It was a part of our American history, and I remember well my studies from the time...contrary to popular belief today, it was taught.
Only time will tell if our sestercentennial will be celebrated and commemorated.
I have high hopes.
So anyhow, as the years went by, the Bicentennial was hardly a mention at all. And by the turn of the new century and into the new millennium, it pretty much stopped completely. At least, it did here in the Midwest.
Some say the reason was interest in the period waned.
Could be, but more than that, the constant barrage from all forms of media ended.
Like (click) that!
And so did most history, it seemed.
It wasn't until a Ken Burns PBS documentary and a certain Ron Maxwell movie hit the screens that a new interest grabbed the country: The Civil War. Oh, it was not an obsession like the Bicentennial, but the 1860s did become very popular and included numerous movies such as Gettysburg, Gods & Generals, Glory, Ride With The Devil, The Blue and the Grey, and Cold Mountain. Civil War reenactments began to skyrocket in a similar vein as the Revolutionary War reenactments did a couple decades before.
My wife and I then went from reading about the past and watching movies about it to participating in living history events ourselves, which included, of course, our children, all the while continuing to collect historical objects, whether original or replicas (such as the Old North Church lantern you read about a bit ago).
|At one point my whole family, including my daughter-in-law, reenacted. We |
began this hobby in the Civil War...and over the years some of my kids have (mostly)
dropped out of it while the Revolutionary War era has taken precedence for me,
my wife, and my son Rob.
In more recent times, since 2010, I have spent my 4th of July's at Greenfield Village while wearing period clothing. For the first few years I wore my 1860s attire. But the 18th century kept a-calling to me. Though I enjoyed 1860s - still do - I always knew the Revolutionary War era was more for me. As I explained in a blog post in May of 2014:
Well...I did it! I went out and purchased colonial clothing for myself.
I've been wanting to do colonial reenacting for many years. In all actuality, the colonial era was my first history love, dating way back to when I was a small lad during the pre-bicentennial era of the late 1960's/early 1970's and, well, it never really left me.
So it was in April of 2014 that I changed over to the fashions of the 1770s. And I never fail(ed) to have at least one other reenactor come along with me - many times a half dozen or more will join in the celebratory fun.
And every Independence Day I recall(ed) the Bicentennial and how wonderful it was.
Well, on that 4th of July in 2014 I came up with the idea to bring with me to the Village what is commonly known as the Betsy Ross flag that I was given as a gift from my kids for Father's Day. I wanted to attempt to replicate and capture, in feeling (if nothing else), that time in the late spring and early summer of 1776 when, as the story has been told, Betsy Ross sewed the flag that we now recognize as the first American flag.
|So it was over to the Daggett House to set up our little scenario for photo purposes.|
I had it okay'd previous to our coming beforehand.
Besides George Ross, Betsy was also acquainted with the great General Washington. Not only did they both worship at Christ Church in Philadelphia, but Betsy's pew was next to George and Martha's pew. Ross's daughter recalled, "That she was previously well acquainted with Washington, and that he had often been in her house in friendly visits, as well as on business. That she had embroidered ruffles for his shirt bosoms and cuffs, and that it was partly owing to his friendship for her that she was chosen to make the flag."
Some folks find it difficult to believe Betsy Ross actually made this flag. I question the person questioning the validity of it, because whoever it was conveniently left out a few important facts.
Here's the true story:
In 1776, Betsy Ross was a widow struggling to run her own upholstery business. Upholsterers in colonial America not only worked on furniture but did all manner of sewing work, which for some included making flags. Ross would often tell her children, grandchildren, relatives, and friends of the fateful day when three members of a secret committee from the Continental Congress came to call upon her. Those representatives, George Washington, Robert Morris, and George Ross, asked her to sew an American flag - one we could call our own. This meeting occurred in her home some time late in May 1776. George Washington was then the head of the Continental Army. Robert Morris, an owner of vast amounts of land, was perhaps the wealthiest citizen in the Colonies. Colonel George Ross was a respected Philadelphian and also the uncle of Betsy's late husband, John Ross.
According to Betsy herself, General Washington showed her a rough design of the flag that included a six-pointed star. Betsy, a standout with the scissors, demonstrated how to cut a five-pointed star in a single snip. Impressed, the committee entrusted Betsy with making our first flag.
On June 14, 1777, the Continental Congress, seeking to promote national pride and unity, adopted the national flag. "Resolved: that the flag of the United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation."
Betsy Ross is regarded by many modern historians, pseudo-historians, vexillologists (flag experts), and writers on Philadelphia as a character befitting a fable — that the tale of her making the first flag is no more than an instructive parable.
|Ross finished the flag either in late May or early June 1776. In July, the Declaration of Independence was read aloud for the first time at Independence Hall. Amid celebration, bells throughout the city tolled, heralding the birth of a new nation.|
Modern-day parsers of the past suggest that several 19th-century authors and enthusiasts of American history were overanxious to champion the story of Betsy Ross brought to public attention by her grandson, William Canby, in a speech before the Pennsylvania Historical Society in 1870. That the story of the patriots of the Revolutionary Era required a deserving female role model. That magazines, textbooks, and artists uncritically have echoed the contrivance of a man who was an 11-year-old boy when his grandmother died. Some historians ignore Canby altogether and say, "There's no written record of the sewing of the first flag; therefore we cannot accept the story as truthful or likely."
Historians, to their credit, always want source documentation.
However, the oral history testimony of Betsy Ross's own daughter and other family members of her time recount Betsy's story, and historically the dates and circumstances remain unrefuted. There is even a notation that Martha Washington's granddaughter made it a point, while in Philadelphia in 1820, to visit Mrs. Claypool (Betsy Ross). This is, as author Marla T. Miller wrote in her book, Betsy Ross and the Making of America, "a tantalizing point of contact between Ross's life and her legend." It also reveals us to "check the fables that lace through popular historical memory against the historical record itself." Evaluating the circumstantial evidence also supports her story, including the paper star found in a safe in the 20th century.
So, as it was, in April 2009, the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission officially recognized Betsy Ross's contributions with a historic marker in front of her house, stating, "Credited with making the first stars and stripes flag, Ross was a successful upholsterer. She produced flags for the government for over 50 years. As a skilled artisan, Ross represents the many women who supported their families during the Revolution and early Republic."
Perhaps we'll never be 100% certain on who made the first 13 star flag, but the evidence, in my own opinion - though going against the grain of current historians (who can be wrong...or perhaps have an agenda) - supports Betsy Ross as the maker of the first flag. Therefore, to blow off the story as a complete fable is doing our country's history an injustice.
So we spoke quite a bit about the Bicentennial of 1976 and of the celebrations that occurred. We also spoke of the adventures in American history after the excitement died down.
Now let's look at how the people of 1776 reacted - the new United States first citizens - upon hearing and hearing of the Declaration of Independence:
Abigail Adams noted upon hearing a public reading of the Declaration (original spelling intact):
"The Bells rang the privateers fired the forts and Batteries, the cannon were discharged the platoons followed and every face appeared joyfull. Mr. Bowdoin then gave a Sentiment, Stability and perpetuity to American independence. After dinner the kings arms were taken down from the State House and every vestage of him from every place in which it appeared and burnt in king street. Thus ends royall Authority in this state, and all the people shall say Amen."
|Reading the Declaration in front of a mid-18th century building.|
No, I did not set up a scenario - just a posed picture to go along with
the first-hand accounts.
Spectator Quaker Deborah Norris Logan, was fourteen in the summer of 1776. In a diary she started many years later, she described what she saw and heard on July 4:
"It is now a matter of doubt as what hour, or how, the Declaration was given to the people. Perhaps few now remain that heard it read on that day. But of the few I am one: being in the lot adjoining to our old mansion house in Chestnut Street, that then extended to 5th Street, I distinctly heard the words of that Instrument read to the people (I believe from the State House steps, for I did not see the reader) a low building on 5th Street which prevented my sight and I think it was Charles Thomson’s voice. It took place a little after twelve at noon and they then proceeded down the street, (I understood) to read it at the Court House. It was a time of fearful doubt and great anxiety with the people, many of whom were appalled at the boldness of the measure, and the first audience was neither very numerous, nor composed of the most respectable class of citizens."
Standing in her own yard, she could see the crowd on the street and hear the speaker, but due to an obstructed view, she could not see him.
One of my favorite teaching occurrences happened on my very first time out in public while wearing my 18th century clothing...and it happened at Greenfield Village.
I had spent most of my day there, and it was shortly before leaving to go home. I was at the 1880s Firestone Farm (something I don't normally do when I'm in 1770s clothing, for I try to remain in the area where my fashions fit) and a little boy, probably around the age of nine or ten, asked me why I was dressed in this manner, for there was no reenactment going on. He could tell I was dressed historical but quite differently than the presenters there who wore fashions more suitable to the late Victorian farmer period. As I began to explain my clothing, it suddenly hit me: without realizing it, the date just happened to be April 18 - how coincidental to have my very first colonial excursion take place on such a historical date! So I explained to this young attentive future historian the significance of April 18, and how "239 years ago tonight, Paul Revere would make his famous ride, warning the countryside that the regulars were out, and they were coming this way to take our guns and ammunition so we couldn't fight them should the need arise!"
|There are no pictures of me speaking with|
the young lad. However, this photo was taken
in the same spot where he & I spoke...on
the very same day!
The young man was thrilled to hear this and immediately ran to his mother, shouting, "Mom! Do you know what happened 239 years ago tonight?!?" and, verbatim, proceeded to explain to her what I had just told him.
Only a few minutes later I saw this same young history buff pretending his mother's umbrella that he was holding was a musket and 'shooting' at the Redcoats, shouting "The British are coming!"
I corrected him to say "the regulars are coming out," which he did, and then told him that "tomorrow, April 19, will be the 239th anniversary of the first battles at Lexington & Concord, igniting the beginning of the Revolutionary War - the fight for our Independence."
He loved it.
I loved it!
How exciting for this young patriot to hear of our nation's history in this manner.
How exciting for me to teach him something that one hardly even hears about anymore.
Yes, this capped an awesome day for me.
And we may have had a sort of manifestation at Greenfield Village:
or just history repeating itself!
1st pic taken in 1957 - 20 years before Daggett was brought to Greenfield Village. I'm not sure who the person was but it's kind of a cool picture.
2nd pic - here I am in 2020 coming out of the same house with a photo taken nearly at the same angle.
(cue Twilight Zone music)
|Yeah...I suppose history does repeat itself - repeat itself...repeat itself...|
And here is something that I feel is more than a coincidence - Providence, mayhaps? - and it concerns these two men, our 2nd and 3rd presidents, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, both also co-writers of the Declaration of Independence: they both died on the same day, date, and year. That in itself is remarkable enough. But their shared passing occurred on July 4, 1826, 50 years to the day of the Declaration's adoption.
Gives me chills...
Their death signaled the end of the Revolutionary era, for, at that point, there was only one signer left alive, Charles Carroll, who lived six more years, until 1832.
In 2026, during our sestercentennial celebration, perhaps we should remember the 200th anniversary of the deaths of Adams and Jefferson as well.
Over the years my celebrations have expanded greatly, and now mostly take place at Mill Race Village, where patriotism tends to reign strong. It began on July 4, 2017, at the urging of my friend Lauren. Well, about five of us showed up that first year, but we made a powerful impression for such a small group, and we were invited back for the following year's celebration.
The 2018 showing we had 17 - count 'em, seventeen! - colonials show!
At that point, we were the celebration!
Yet, in 2019, we clobbered any previous number by having over 30 people take part!
|We now celebrate the 4th of July - Independence Day - nearly as fervently as we|
would have done 50 years ago, bringing Mill Race Village alive as if it were 1776!
Of course, covid took affect for 2020 and 2021, though a few of us still visited "just because," and we spoke with the few people who walked through the historical park. Even that little bit helped folks keep their 4th of July.
Let's see how future-past endeavors will be...
The Spirit of '76 lives on!
The Bicentennial is noted for the feelings of patriotism and nostalgia that the celebrations inspired. There was a general feeling that the country was beginning to recover after the unstable period that included the Civil Rights Movement, the Vietnam War, and the Watergate crisis. In his autobiography, A Time to Heal, President Ford described the effect that Bicentennial Celebrations had on the country:
“Rarely in the history of the world had so many people turned out so spontaneously to express the love they felt for their country. Not a single incident marred our festival. The nation’s wounds had healed. We had regained our pride and rediscovered our faith, and in doing so, we had laid the foundation for a future that had to be filled with hope.”
Amen and amen.
I also agree with a statement someone wrote on another site:
"Something special happened over two centuries ago. But is that story being told and promoted?
And to do that, you also have to be willing to promote what makes America special. That's not very PC these days, but maybe it's time to start celebrating America again, especially in the run up to the 250th in 2026."
And, as President Ford concluded in his speech on April 18, 1975, marking the beginning of the Bicentennial celebrations:
"...let us pray here in the Old North Church tonight that those who follow 100 years or 200 years from now may look back at us and say: We were a society which combined reason with liberty and hope with freedom.
May it be said above all: We kept the faith, freedom flourished, liberty lived. These are the abiding principles of our past and the greatest promise of our future.
Good evening, and may God bless you all."
Yes...what ^^^he^^^ said.
So, Happy Independence Day from my wife and I to you (the following two photos taken July 3, 2022):
|On the porch of the JR Jones General Store at Greenfield Village|
July 3, 2022
Until next time, see you in time.
Happy Independence Day!
\/ \/ \/
History specifically written for the 4th of July:
The Great Declaration of July 4th, 1776: Reactions From Those Who Were There - How did people respond upon hearing the Declaration read, or even of simply hearing about the Patriots declaring independence?
Independence Day: A "Passion for the Past" History of This Grand Holiday - The whys and wherefores of us celebrating the 4th of July.
Unsung Patriots: The Printing of the Declaration of Independence - Imagine being THEE printer of this most famous of documents.
The Signing of the Declaration of Independence - August 2, 1776 - The Signing of the Declaration of Independence.
I thought it was signed, sealed, and delivered on July 4 of '76!
What's this all about?
Declaring Independence: The Spirits of '76 - I met up with Benjamin Franklin and he had quite a bit to tell me about the writing and signing of the Declaration of Independence.
I've Come to Look for America: Celebrating the 4th of July - I love seeing patriotism by way of the red, white, and blue, so I went a-searching for it. I was not disappointed.
The Glorious Fourth - Enjoying a Victorian (1860s) 4th of July day at Greenfield Village. What we did not realize until we left was the temperature got up to 101 degrees! Yes, we were hot in all those clothes! But what a fine day we had!
And a few other historical posts you might enjoy:
Paul Revere's Famous Ride of April 18, 1775 - Through the many books I have on Paul Revere I wrote my own little post about his most famous of rides, and I included first-person accounts as well.
Accenting My Journey Through Time - Over the years, especially since I got married, I've been collecting historical items, most of which are exact replications of originals (though a few items are actual antiques). Here are a number of items in my collection and a story behind them.
With Liberty and Justice For All - Many of the cool original historical items the Henry Ford Museum displayed during the Bicentennial (such as the Paul Revere silversmithing items and the Washington camp bed seen in the above article), including an original copy of Thomas Paine's Common Sense, furniture of the period, George Washington campaign buttons, and even a writing desk once belonging to Thomas Jefferson. American history right here!
Buried Treasure: Stories of the Founding Generation - Did you ever hear about the Revolutionary who was shot in the face, bayoneted numerous times, and left for dead in a pool of blood...and lived another 18 years? How about the stories of the runaway servant girls? Then there is the story of Nabby Adams, the daughter of John and Abigail, and her heroic fight against breast cancer.
These true stories and more are right here.
To visit the oldest buildings in Michigan Territory, please click HERE
To visit Revolutionary War-related houses inside Greenfield Village, please click HEREFor an overview of everyday life in the colonies, please click HERE
The Best of My 4th of July Celebrations: "You look like American history!" click HERE
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