Bicentennial Fever

spirits of 76The Spirits of ’76

I was in high school in 1976 and the Bicentennial was the all the rage. Sloane was landscape artist and illustrator. This book was probably one of the many books of Americana that was popular due to the upcoming bicentennial. Part essay and part illustration, it was more of a gift book to display and was probably a good choice for a library back in the day. I weeded this last year since there were zero checkouts since 1995, the year of the library’s first automation.

For a public library, this is one you can let go. Moody teen that I was, I remember being really sick of all the Bicentennial stuff. I have wondered if any of the paraphernalia from that time is collectible. (Pet Rocks need not apply.)


spirits of 1976 back cover author picture




  1. I would be sure to thoroughly clean anything I brought home from the town dump! *bedbugsshudder*

  2. Like many fads in the 70s, the Bicentennial was done to death, and everyone was glad when it was over. My elementary school principal showed up every day for a year in colonial costume — ’nuff said!

  3. I have wondered if any of the paraphernalia from that time is collectible.
    The popular alternative spelling was “buy-centennial”.

    I too was in high school at the time. Mine appears to have been one of the two high schools in the country whose 1976 yearbook cover did not feature the “Spirit of ’76” painting.

  4. Sloane was a great illustrator, but this doesn’t look like his best work. Still, it may have some value as being by him. (Does a quick search on Abebooks.) Yeah, I’m seeing prices of slightly better than $100, tops. Some of his are more than $1K, though.
    Back in the day, some of us used his *Dictionary of Early American Tools* as a reference work. I believe he describes and illustrates how to set the teeth on a two-person saw.

    1. In the back of my mind, there sticks the memory of an ad headlined “Own a piece of the bicentennial forever”. They were selling cans of *air* “ensealed” at certain historical sites!

  5. Eric Sloane enthusiast chiming in here.

    I used to use essays from this book in public speaking classes, or when teachers wanted us to read literary selections to classmates.

    While I fully agree that this book’s theme and appearance look like some Bicentennial souvenir trinket, and therefore it stands no chance of being picked up by a curious browser, this book is actually an excellent collection of thoughtful essays about values and virtues that he felt were being abandoned by modern society (mind you, that “modern society” was the 1976 of the “oil crisis,” bloated American cars, and pollution being attacked worldwide as what would kill us–imagine today with personal computers, the Internet, cell phones, etc.).

    The “spirits” Sloane highlights in this book–frugality, time, respect, agronomy, etc.–are equally precious and important today, if not even more so. Sloane’s words carry the curmudgeonly wisdom of writers like Andy Rooney and H.L. Mencken without as much of the dour, crabby feel of those writers, basically preaching for our re-adoption of these “spirits” rather than just grousing. Someone could probably produce a best-seller book for 2018 by taking these concisely-written essays and updating them, while of course fluffing them out ad nauseum so you pay $35 for a “book of substance” rather than a few measly dollars for a collection of what could easily be ten Sunday newspaper opinion essays, and getting some literary agents and publishers, with the help of TV talk shows like Dr. Phil or whoever, to promote the hell out of it.

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