Home Decades Events U.S. Bicentennial (1976)

U.S. Bicentennial (1976)

To mark the 200th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence on 4 July, the government and people of the United States celebrated in 1976 with a nationwide celebration commemorating the war which gave rise to the creation of the American system of government and nation.

Uncle Sam was decked out in his top hat, his red Fonzie T-shirt and his blue and white bleached jeans. His skateboard was fibreglass, his CB Radio was double-band and his smile was self-satisfied.


His EST training had paid off, and he had survived – survived 16 years of assassinations, race and campus riots, anti-war demonstrations, political scandal and protest marches by a dazzling array of special interest groups.

The entire country seemed to be swathed in stars and stripes . . .

Everywhere you looked people were painting fire hydrants in shades of red, white and blue, donning tri-coloured clown wigs and plunking down newly-minted Bicentennial 25c and dollar coins for clothes, dishes, coffee mugs and anything else with a flag pattern on it.

The Bicentennial celebrations culminated on 4 July with the nationwide ringing of bells, the convergence of 50 warships and 16 tall ships from around the world in New York harbour, and the largest display of fireworks anyone had ever seen.

Queen Elizabeth II also visited the US from 7 July on an official state visit.

In retrospect, the timing couldn’t have been better. For all its gaudiness and self-congratulation, the Bicentennial did a lot to bring the country back together after the divisive traumas of the Vietnam era.

Not coincidentally, most Bicentennial celebrations seemed to downplay America’s military might, highlighting instead the country’s domestic accomplishments and the resilience of its people.