In 1976, Philadelphia’s Bicentennial celebration, celebrating the 200th Anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, showcased all the city had to offer.
On December 31, 1975, New Year’s Eve, the first of the Bicentennial-themed events occurred when thousands came out to watch the Liberty Bell be transported from Independence Hall to a new pavilion on Independence Mall. Daily events from January to October, included street performers, concerts, and puppet shows. The week leading up to July 4 was renamed ‘Freedom Week’ and featured even more celebrations throughout the streets of Philadelphia, including a 2076 time capsule buried at Second and Chestnut Streets, a 50,000 pound Sara Lee birthday cake served at Memorial Hall, and numerous fireworks displays.
The ceremonies on Indpendence Mall opened On July 4, 1976, with actor Charlton Heston serving as master of ceremonies, and attended by President Gerald Ford, Pennsylvania Governor Milton Shapp, and Mayor Frank Rizzo. A five-hour parade followed which featured floats from every state. On July 6, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip presented to the city a Bicentennial Bell produced in the same foundry as the original Liberty Bell. In total, an estimated two million visitors attended the events.
Publisher Martin Ezra’s Bicentennial Newsletter created to publicize regional plans for the bicentennial, and to raise interest and involvement in the various programs and celebrations. Among this collection of papers, held in the Special Collections Research Center (SCRC), are files of information from each state delegation describing their involvement in the Bicentennial, as well as photographs and ephemera related to the festivities. A plethora of souvenirs and other items were also created to sell during the festivities, which Ezra also collected. A selection of the advertisements, merchandise, and other materials from this collection are on display in the exhibit case in the SCRC reading room during the month of July.
-–Ann Mosher, BA II, SCRC