Celebrating the Bicentennial, a Few Years Early

In 1976 the United States celebrated the bicentennial of the Declaration of Independence from Great Britain.  Any American who remembers that year will tell you it was a very big deal.  And it wasn’t just that year.  People started getting ready for it in the early 70s.

A nice reader from Canada, Sarah, recently sent this U.S. Bicentennial scarf my way.  What makes it really interesting is that the label has the date on it.

Yes, there was a lot of money to be made on history, and it was best to get a headstart.

For those of you unfamiliar with US history (and I hope I’m referring to people outside of the US!)  I’ll identify some of the images.   In the center of the scarf, starting at the top you see Independence Hall in Philadelphia, where the Continental Congress was meeting, and where the signing of the Declaration (and years later, also the US Constitution) took place.

Moving clockwise the big blue blob shows the five members of the committee that was in charge of writing the document.  The tall guy is Thomas Jefferson, who gets most of the credit.  Next is the brave and strong Minuteman, who stood his ground at Lexington:

Here once the embattled farmers stood
And fired the shot heard round the world.

And to the left you see Washington Crossing the Delaware, which led to the Continental Army defeating a lot of holiday-happy Hessians at Trenton, New Jersey in December 1776.  Note the flag, which did not exist until well into 1777!

At the left is Paul Revere, who left Boston to warn the countryside that the British were coming.  Revere got lucky.  Two other guys made the trip that night, but few remember their names because they were not chosen by Longfellow to be in his famously inaccurate poem.

Skipping the drum, the next figure is Molly Pitcher, or  Mary Ludwig Hays, who followed her soldier husband into war (a common practice; someone had to do the laundry) .  In 1778 he was hit while firing his cannon, and Molly, who had been delivering pitchers of water to the fighters, took up his place at the weapon.  She was actually granted a pension by the state of Pennsylvania.

I’m not sure that that thing on the left is.  Any ideas?  The bell is the Liberty Bell, with its big crack.  Historians are pretty sure that the bell was not rung on July 4, 1776, but it may have been rung on the 8th when the document was publicly read.  The crack did not appear until some years later.

I came up empty on information about Selann, but if you want to see a thousand photos of Selena Gomez with a scarf around her neck, just google images “Selann scarf.”

The Banash label says the firm was founded in 1888, which does seem to be the case, as it was  located on Washington Street, Boston, as Banash and Kornfeld, Milliners.

My thanks to Sarah, who gave me this opportunity to put my history teacher’s hat back on for a little while.

15 Comments

Filed under Collecting, Curiosities, Novelty Prints

15 responses to “Celebrating the Bicentennial, a Few Years Early

  1. Lynne

    Great post, again, Lizzie. The other unidentified item is the Bedford flag:

    http://www.aboutflags.com/index.php?crn=416

    about which it says: “The oldest known American battle flag, this banner was flown by the Bedford Minutemen Company at the Battle of Lexington and Concord onward. It was the first flag of the American Revolution to be fired upon by the British…”

    Like

  2. Mod Betty grew up right outside of Boston and in 1976 you could not get away from Bicentennial fever! We had a “Colonial Day” where we dressed like old fashioned kids – My mother made me a lttle cap to wear with my red white and blue outfit, Everything everywhere was Red/White/Blue during that time! Even into 1977, I swear we studied nothing but the Revolutionary war that entire year in history/geography, as my classmates and I all lament how poor our geographic knowledge is outside of the “hub of the universe”!

    Like

  3. Is the timing of this post coincidental to the large US interest in the new royal birth in the UK? (!) They’ve been interviewing gushing american tourists on BBC news. Very funny! More amusing still ( for me) our son celebrated being granted his green card yesterday. He and his Californian bride are thrilled to bits.

    Actually I was very interested to read about your scarf and its symbols. Mr EM and I visited the US in 1976 and enjoyed the celebrations then. Sadly I didn’t buy a souvenir scarf at the time but have since acquired two. One showing facsimilies of the signatures to the Declaration of Independence. I’ve forgotten what is on the other (!)

    Like

    • No, I really was not thinking about the new little prince! But you are correct about Americans gushing over the Royals. Once in London some friends and I stumbled the Queen Mum coming out of St Pauls, and seriously, you would have thought we had won the lottery!

      Like

  4. As I was reading your blog…it came to my mind that you are/were a teacher…you did a great job explaining, Liz. No wonder your blog is so educational. Thanks.

    As an added note: They even had an actual re-enactment of a horse and rider making the trip …starting in the South, north to Philly. They used three different horses. The first horse was an Arab Stallion named Charek….ran the first third of the trip.

    Like

  5. The bicentennial is one of my favorite things about the 70s. I love that it wasn’t just your regular patriotic images, such as the stars and stripes, but things like this, historical imagery.

    -Janey

    Like

    • It really was a fun, but odd time. The Vietnam War had ended badly, and it seemed that patriotism was at a low point, only to come rushing back at the reminder that we weren’t total losers after all!

      Like

  6. Teresa

    I have to admit I only know a bit about the US independence from England… it wasn’t really a part of history we were taught in school in Australia. Though, it could have depended on which school you went to!

    I find it interesting that some Americans seem to be embracing the Royals at the moment too!

    Like

  7. thanks for shedding some light on why americana pervaded my 70s childhood: everyone wanted in on the bicentennial celebration! the scarf is such a great piece of history.

    Like

  8. I knew it was in good hands with you, Lizzie! I learned quite a bit from this post – I’ll be quizzing my very Canadian friends on their American history at work tomorrow. :-)

    All the best,
    Sarah

    Like

  9. How nifty. I had just turned seven at the time of the bicentennial, and I have no doubt the patriotic fervor was formative.

    Like

  10. I was seven in 1976 and remember that time pretty well. I mainly remember all the kitschy Colonial style home decor, with 1776 being celebrated even in wallpaper motifs!

    I was reading an expat Vienna blog and one of the suggestions for Americans relocating was to be sure to brush up on their American history, as those in other countries seem to know it better than we do. (Sadly, this does not surprise me.)

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s