The Spirit of 1976
Commerce, Community, and the Politics of Commemoration
Publication Year: 2013
Published by: University of Massachusetts Press
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Title Page, Copyright Page
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Table of Contents
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This book began as class prep for the graduate seminar Care and Management of Historical Collections. I needed a topic that would allow students to practice their skills in research, acquisition, and collections care, and the 1976 bicentennial seemed to have produced an abundance of material for students to consider. It was also recent enough to allow for some interesting...
Introduction: In the Spirit of the Revolution
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In the summer in 1972, the American Revolution Bicentennial Commission (ARBC) found itself in a situation hotter than the sidewalks of Washington, D.C. A federal body created in 1966 and charged with overseeing the commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the American Revolution, the ARBC stood accused of creating an observance that privileged...
1. Finding a Role for the “Private Sector”: The American Revolution Bicentennial Commission, 1966–1973
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Bicentennial planning at the federal level suffered from a lack of cultural authority from its very beginnings in 1966. As the Vietnam War unfolded, as the economy faltered, as urban unrest showed that America was failing to live up to the promises of the civil rights movement, as leader after leader collapsed from assassination or corruption, the federal ...
2. The Sellabration: Entrepreneurs as the New Revolutionaries
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Around the 200th anniversary of the American Revolution, the private sector of the American economy experienced a revolution of its own. Due to severe criticism aimed at business in the ’60s and early ’70s, members of the business community were cautious about highly visible participation in public life, but by the dawn of 1980, they had not only grown the...
3. Anti-Schlock: Consumerism and History on the Red, White, and Blue Left
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Protest was an important feature of the national birthday, and objections to the anniversary’s commercialization came loudly and clearly from the left. Activists commented broadly but to varying degrees on the bicentennial and bicentennial commercialism, discussing the relevance of the American Revolution and American history to contemporary issues and...
4. “Resolving the Commercialism Issue”: The American Revolution Bicentennial Administration, 1973–1977
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By 1974 federal planners had settled on a strategy that mixed grassroots participation with an emphasis on entrepreneurial spirit, a combination that would achieve some success and restore some measure of public faith in the federal government, or at least in its ability to plan a birthday party. The shift in federal strategy reflected a more significant cultural transition...
5. “Just pick something and do it”: Bicentennial Consumerism and Community
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While federal planners had starting thinking about the bicentennial about a decade before its arrival, public dialogue about appropriate bicentennial celebration began in earnest around 1974. Though much of the press coverage focused on the American Revolution Bicentennial Commission and its more successful progeny, the ARBA, Americans...
Conclusion: The Morning after
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On July 4, 1976, the party was, by most accounts, magnificent. Television news anchor Walter Cronkite called it “the greatest, most colossal birthday party in 200 years.”1 Communities everywhere held parades, festivals, cookouts, each taking on the features of local history and culture. People in San Francisco celebrated the bicentennial of the nation...
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About the Author
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Page Count: 184
Illustrations: 8 illus.
Publication Year: 2013
Series Title: Public History in Historical Perspective
Series Editor Byline: Marla Miller