Welcome to the Dinette of 1976: where one can see the true American Spirit expressed at home. The Bicentennial of 1976 saw an increase in public ceremonies and productions of American celebratory items that became available to the public. The purpose of this was to allow and encourage Americans to take a piece (or pieces) of the celebration home with them. To quote author Tammy S. Gordon, “Consumerism was more than just marketing, retailing and buying; it was (and is) a discursive form in which almost every American could participate through buying, choosing not to buy, viewing others or the self in terms of material possessions, expressing identity and personality, or simply discussing goods and their role not just in the economic life of the country, but in the cultural and social life of the nation.”  The availability of products ranges from pricy commemorative plates to food boxes purchased at the local fast food restaurant.
Inspired by the New Times article, “The Great American Bicentennial Sale” by Ernest Lendler, pictured here is an exaggerated collection of commemorative pieces; a recreation of an American family’s home décor, that has actively embraced the “sellebration”.  In the New Times article, Lendler writing in 1976, is very satirical about this phenomenon, revealing that not all of the contemporaries embraced it, while others were happy to participate. Viewing this recreation, you can decide how you feel about the 1976 Bicentennial.
Marketing in the Bicentennial worked to keep everyone involved with the celebration. The goal of 1976 was to celebrate the 200-year-anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, which involved the original thirteen states, but marketers and event planners wanted to make sure the celebrations included all states, like modern day 4th of July celebrations. So marketers had to take into consideration that they were presenting their patriotic lines to a large diverse group of people that may or may not have a connection with the American Revolution. Of all of the pieces the ones that communicate this unity the most are the commemorative plates that use an interesting combination of images to connect different eras in American history. For example, in the Dinette the White China Plate on top of the cabinet, that shows image of the Liberty Bell from Philadelphia, connects itself to other places and time by also featuring images of the thirteen-star and fifty-star American flags. Other images that relate to all regions are the Pepsi Eagle Plate and Pepsi Glasses that use the Great Seal of the United States. Below you will have an opportunity to see these items and many others around the room up close to observe these images as well as see if you notice any features.
A few items from around the room:
Two Mini Plates – text: “The United States of America Bicentennial 1776-1976”, image left: Great Seal of the United States, image right: George Washington crossing the Delaware
’76 Glasses with Flag wrappers
Spirit ’76 Coasters with liberty bell
On Top of Cabinet:
White China Plate – text: “Bicentennial 1776-1976, proclaim liberty throughout all the world unto all the inhabitants thereof” with graphics of 2 flags (one old, one new), back is stamped with the brand and date “Homer Laughlin made in USA 1976”
Pepsi Eagle Plate – image of eagle, version of the Great Seal of the US
Bicentennial Plate – image of Paul Revere’s ride, the Statue of Liberty, Surrender of Cornwallis, Bunker Hill, Washington crossing the Delaware, Liberty Bell, Star Spangled Banner, and the Declaration of Independence
Commemorative Glasses – cows dressed in revolutionary clothing playing drums and a fife
Pepsi Glasses – eagle emblem, dates, and “200 years of people feelin’ free” (Company from North Carolina)
White Glass Mug – graphics of Revolutionary fife and drum corp
Folger’s Coffee Commemorative Tin – decorated as a war drum used in the American Revolutionary War, (Company from San Francisco)
Cereal Boxes – Uncle Sam Cereal “a natural laxative” (Company from Nebraska), Kellogg’s Frosted Mini Wheats (Company from Michigan)
Falstaff Beer – (Company from St. Louis, MO 1903, discontinued in 2005)
Questions for your Consideration:
What does this image say about the American Bicentennial?
Can you imagine someone decorating their house like this in 2016? 2017?
What does this say about marketing in 1976? Would it have been unpatriotic for a business or person to not participate?
What companies do you recognize?
The major featured companies are American companies? Do you think a foreign company would have used American iconography in hope it increase sales during this time?
How do pieces in this collection include ideas about the entire United States vs just areas involved in the American Revolution?
 Gordon, Tammy S. The Spirit of 1976: Commerce, Community, and the Politics of Commemoration. Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts, 2013.
 Lendler, Ernest. “The Great American Bicentennial Sale.” New Times (1976): 41-44.