The Spirit of ’76: Remembering the Bicentennial (& Before)

The Bicentennial Logo commissioned by the American Revolution Bicentennial Commission, 1975-1976. (Public Domain image)

The Bicentennial Logo. (Image: Public Domain)

Even as a five year old, the significance was not lost on me. The year was 1976, and I was keenly aware that I was living in a time of special celebration that not everyone would personally experience: the American Revolution Bicentennial.

Plans for the 200th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence began well before July 4th, 1976. In fact, Congress created the American Revolution Bicentennial Commission (ARBC) on July 4, 1966, to prepare for the big day. Initially, the idea was to have a single celebration in either Philadelphia, PA or Boston, MA; however, in 1973, the ARBC was dissolved and Congress created the American Revolution Bicentennial Administration (ARBA), which was formed to promote  and encourage the sponsorship of local events as opposed to one single-day, single-locale extravaganza. Bicentennial festivities officially began when The American Freedom Train left the station in Wilmington, DE, on April 1, 1975, for a 48-state tour that would last 21 months.

To further commemorate the Bicentennial, the U.S Treasury Department minted three special coins from 1975-1976.  Products of a nationwide design competition, these coins included the Bicentennial quarter, half dollar, and silver dollar.

As a youngster, Bicentennial coins were fun to collect.  I still come across some—mostly quarters—in circulation today.  I regard them with a patriotic reverence that compels me to keep them even still.  The mere sight of a Bicentennial coin takes me back to small town America and the most deliciously memorable moments for a five year old: our family’s frequent trips to the High’s Dairy Store at the edge of town where hand-dipped, red-white-and-blue-swirled ice cream was served up all summer long as a reminder of our nation’s hard-fought independence.

Long live the Stars and Stripes.  Long live the Spirit of ’76.

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