Guest Author - Vance Rowe
In 1976, the United States of America celebrated a very important milestone. It was her 200th birthday celebration It was 200 years passing since America first became free of England's grip and became an independent republic. It was also the day that our founding fathers adopted the Declaration of Independence.
The Bicentennial celebration actually started a year earlier, in 1975. The American Freedom Train began its twenty-one month tour in the contiguous 48 states. The train was full of Americana from historical periods of the two hundred years. Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.'s pulpit was on display in the train as was George Washington's copy of the Constitution, and Dorothy's dress from the movie, The Wizard of Oz, among many other things like that. I was lucky enough to tour the American Freedom Train on a class field trip. It sure was an amazing thing to see.
Also in 1975, President Gerald Ford traveled to Boston, Massachusetts to light a third lantern in the Old North Church to symbolize the third century.
He also made a public speech about it being the bicentennial of the Battle of Lexington and Concord, the battle that began our fight for independence from England's rule in Massachusetts.
President Gerald Ford also presided over the grand fireworks display in Washington, D.C. On the Fourth of July in 1976 and was broadcast on national television. Britain's Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip visited the United States at this time as well to tour the country and attend the Bicentennial celebrations with President and Mrs. Ford. Queen Elizabeth also presented Philadelphia,ship Pennsylvania with the Bicentennial Bell. It was a replica of the Liberty Bell and made at the same foundry as the Liberty Bell was, at The Whitechapel Bell Foundry. The inscription on the Bicentennial Bell reads, “For the People of the United States of America from the People of Britain 4 July 1976 LET FREEDOM RING."
Tall masted ships from different nations as well as naval ships from different nations, all gathered in the New York Harbor on Independence Day. President Ford traveled down the Hudson River to the New York Harbor on the USS Wainwright, a US Navy guided missile cruiser. He reviewed each of the ships in the harbor and the ships saluted him. The final salute happened just above Liberty Island and was done by the HMS London, a British missile cruiser.
Television was bombarded with specials including a 12 hour entertainment program that began on July 3, hosted by Ed McMahon. The series Schoolhouse Rock had come out with a sub series called “America Rock”, in the months leading up to the Bicentennial. These aired on Saturday mornings in between cartoon shows, across the country.
I can only imagine what the Tricentennial celebration will be like in 2076. I will be 102 then. I can't wait.