The Bicentennial Madness of July 1976

Apartment dwellers of Fort Lee, N.J. find the best seats for the Bicentennial's Operation Sail on their balconies overlooking the Hudson River, . These people were joined by millions lining the shore below their windows to watch the tall ships, a fleet of warships and thousands of small pleasure crafts that passed before their eyes to mark the nation's 200th birthday 4 Jul 1976

Apartment dwellers of Fort Lee, N.J. find the best seats for the Bicentennial’s Operation Sail on their balconies overlooking the Hudson River, . These people were joined by millions lining the shore below their windows to watch the tall ships, a fleet of warships and thousands of small pleasure crafts that passed before their eyes to mark the nation’s 200th birthday

 

Let’s face it, in the 1970s patriotism in the U.S. wasn’t what it was in previous decades; Vietnam, Watergate, etc. had eroded much of the American spirit.  Yet, for some reason, the nation went freaking buck-wild over the Bicentennial.

The “Spirit of ’76” was everywhere.  Any Americans old enough to remember will recall the inexplicable Bicentennial hype that permeated the country.  Everything from sugar packets to license plates commemorated the event, and every classroom was bedecked in red, white & blue.  It’s simply impossible to exaggerate this phenomenon.

On the one hand, it’s nice to be proud of your country and celebrate its birthday.  On the other hand, this became so over-hyped and marketed to such an extreme that it was…. well, let’s just say it was more than a little overboard.

Here are some examples from magazine covers, T-shirt iron-ons, cigarette lighters and other ephemera to give you an idea of how prevalent the Bicentennial fad was.  Just know, this is just the tip of the iceberg – those that actually lived it were marinated in the stars and stripes from every direction;  and it’s impossible to fully convey the true madness that was America’s 200th birthday.

 

1776 makeup

Bicentennial inspired makeup and cigarette lighter.

 

bicentennial condom and chainsaw

Bicentennial condom and chainsaw (hopefully not to be used together)

 

travel 1976

sears 1976 cover

The Sears catalog actually offered Bicentennial clothing in their Summer 1976 catalog including these nifty sneakers…

 

sears 1976 shoes

sears 1976 shirt

Of course, T-shirts emblazoned with 1776 were omnipresent.

 

27_Todd Bridges in a T shirt ad

You may recognize the fella on the right; Todd Bridges from “Diff’rent Strokes”.

 

Pizza-Box-bicentennial

From the back of a pizza box…. are you beginning to see how prevalent this was?

 

bicentennial

People magazine has celebs dress up as Independence Day heroes, and Gottlieb unveils their Bicentennial pinball machine.

radio shack bicentennial issue

Radio Shack’s Bicentennial “Everything System”.  You can begin to see how the Bicentennial was perhaps less about celebrating a nation’s birthday than a slick marketing tactic.  Label it with a Bicentennial brand, and sales magically increase.

 

1776 fashion advertising

I’m not so keen on wrapping my ice cream cone in aluminum foil, but Reynolds smartly cashes in on the Bicentennial boom.

1776 girl scouts

Girl Scout and American Camping Association’s Bicentennial advertisement.

 

July 1976

You know a fad has truly permeated pop culture when both Penthouse and TV Guide pay tribute.

Here’s another example of how broad the Bicentennial mania spread…

 

Kiss world tour 1976

Both Women’s Circle and KISS embrace The Spirit of ’76.

 

Newsweek-Cover-July-4-1976-min-768x1031

March1976PeterbiltAdBackCover

Peterbuilt truck ad from a 1976 issue of Overdrive magazine.

 

The-New-York-Times-Magazine-Cover-July-4-1976

bicentennial pez

From sexy tops to PEZ dispensers… to be honest, it makes me a bit sad to think that we Americans could never muster this level of patriotism today.  Yes, PEZ dispensers are a far cry from “true patriotism” (i.e. serving in the military)… but even this superficial level of national pride wouldn’t fly these days on this scale. (sigh)

 

bicentennial playboy

Ameristar and bar guide 1976

Marvel Calender 1976

053_Tractor Queen

Bicentennial-Toilet-Paper-Wrapping-1976-min

 

This one has me conflicted.  If you use this toilet paper for its intended purpose… are you being patriotic or anti-American? I’ll leave for that one for you to ponder.