1976 American Bicentennial – Washington Reviews Army at Valley Forge
Issue Date: May 29, 1976
City: Philadelphia, PA
Printed By: Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Printing Method: Lithographed
On May 29, 1976, the Postal Service issued four souvenir sheets to commemorate INTERPHIL ‘76 (Seventh International Philatelic Exhibition) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Each sheet contained five individually perforated stamps, which were valid for postage. Since the US was celebrating its 200th anniversary of Independence, four famous Revolutionary War paintings were appropriately chosen as design subjects for the sheets.
This sheet pictures General George Washington and his officers reviewing the army at Valley Forge.
The Bicentennial Series
The US Bicentennial was a series of celebrations during the mid-1970s that commemorated the historic events leading to America’s independence from Great Britain. The official events began on April 1, 1975, when the American Freedom Train departed Delaware to begin a 21-month, 25,338-mile tour of the 48 contiguous states. For more than a year, a wave of patriotism swept the nation as elaborate firework displays lit up skies across the US, an international fleet of tall-mast sailing ships gathered in New York City and Boston, and Queen Elizabeth made a state visit. The celebration culminated on July 4, 1976, with the 200th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence.
The USPS issued 113 commemorative stamps over a six-year period in honor of the US bicentennial, beginning with the American Revolution Bicentennial Commission Emblem stamp (US #1432). As a group, the Bicentennial Series chronicles one of our nation’s most important chapters, and remembers the events and patriots who made the US a world model for liberty.
First National Thanksgiving
On December 18, 1777, the United States celebrated its first national Thanksgiving. The celebration was in reaction to the recent victory at the Battle of Saratoga.
Since the earliest settlement of the American colonies, there were days set aside for thanksgiving, prayer, and fasting in response to important events. These days of thanksgiving would be held on different days throughout the year and would vary between the colonies.
On October 7, 1777, the British General John Burgoyne led his army in the Second Battle of Freeman’s Farm. General Burgoyne’s defeat there was the conclusion of a series of empty victories in which British troops took ground, but suffered heavy losses. He decided to retreat, but soon found himself surrounded by the American army commanded by General Horatio Gates. On October 17, 1777, Burgoyne surrendered to Gates. The Americans took nearly 6,000 prisoners and a large supply of arms.
The British surrender at Saratoga (now Schuylerville), New York, marked a major turning point in the war. It showed that the British could be defeated and that their strategies were failing. This helped to convince France that it was possible to enter the war on the American side.
In response to this major victory, the Second Continental Congress issued a National Thanksgiving Day Proclamation on November 1. The proclamation announced that all Americans should celebrate that December 18 as a day of Thanksgiving. They recommended all people stop and give thanks to God for blessing America and their troops in their mission to achieve independence and their victories in the Revolutionary War.
On December 18, 1777, General George Washington led his troops in observing the day of thanksgiving. They were nearly at Valley Forge, where they would spend the winter, but he chose to take the day off from marching so his men could give thanks. They spent the day encamped, preparing for Valley Forge, and attended a sermon. The men also received a special meal that included rice and roasted pig.
In the years to come, Congress would call for similar days of thanksgiving and in 1789, George Washington would be the first president to proclaim a Thanksgiving Day. In 1863, Abraham Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving Day as the final Thursday in November. And in 1941, Franklin Roosevelt signed legislation that declared Thanksgiving would be held on the fourth Thursday of November (most significant in the years where there are five Thursdays that month).