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New York State History Advocacy: The American Revolution 250th

Add the American Revolution 250th to the list of advocacy items in the event the New York History Community ever advocates.  This is in addition to the previous topics recently raised about

The State Historian
The State Museum
State-owned historic sites.

Now we turn to a national issue, the American Revolution 250th addressed in two previous blogs:

Education and the American Revolution 250th


Here is how two state senators characterized the present situation.

March 20, 2023

The Honorable Kathy Hochul
Governor of New York State NYS
State Capitol Building
Albany, NY 12224

Dear Governor Hochul:

With news breaking last month of corruption and scandal at the America 250 Foundation, Inc, where millions of dollars of public funds have been mismanaged, it has become apparent that the federally-funded organization and its public history partner organization, the [American] Association of State and Local History, have failed to establish a workable plan for the approaching commemorative years (2024-2033).

 As part of their damage control, Rosie Rios, Chair of the United States Semiquincentennial Commission and Emily Sexton, President of the America 250 Foundation, Inc, penned a letter on February 13, 2023, to state coordinators to shift the responsibility to them, stating “we [will] work diligently to elevate your good work while collaborating with you on partnerships and programs at the state and territory level.” Simultaneously, the American Association of State and Local History announced a 2-day virtual conference for local public historians to gather on April 27-28, 2023, to discuss what, if anything, should be commemorated about the country’s founding period. Questions remain at the national level, where there appears to be a growing sentiment against marking the anniversary of the American Revolution in any meaningful fashion [bold added].

 With New York’s Rev250 commemorative cycle set to begin in 2024, it is late to be entertaining these questions. Nearly eight years have elapsed since Congress passed the United States Semiquincentennial Act on July 22, 2016. Even factoring in the instability and challenges of the COVID era, there has been more than enough time to develop a coherent plan to rally cultural sector organizations to prepare for the commemoration of our nation’s and our state’s founding.

The New York State 250th Commemoration Act of 2021 called for a special commission to be seated and a strategic plan developed and delivered to the Governor within one year. The law stipulated that the plan would link partners throughout New York state for a full commemorative cycle concluding in December 2033.

 To date, the commission has not been seated and no plan has been delivered to your desk. The only serious planning efforts underway are all at the local level and predominantly within the Hudson Valley. In 2019 there was a flurry of activity surrounding the 250th planning process in New York State. State Historian Devin Lander held a series of workshops to foster local partnerships which resulted in Constance Kehoe (Westchester County), Johanna Porr Yaun (Orange County), Dr. William P. Tatum III (Dutchess County), and Lauren Roberts (Saratoga County) initiating local planning efforts, generating materials to help guide the creation of local commission and committees, and developing themes and collaborations for a potential New York State Field Guide.

 The outlook for New York looked promising when the first official 250th anniversary event, commemorating the Battle of Golden Hill, occurred at Fraunces Tavern in New York City on January 27, 2020.The impact and disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic cannot be understated; however, history-rich communities across the state have recovered and resumed their planning efforts over the past two years. Discouragingly, these efforts have not yielded action from state stakeholders. Despite the New York 250th Law’s provisions for creating budget lines with an implied intention of supporting local efforts and continuous verbal encouragement to advance these local arrangements, the county-level planning groups have received no form of actual direction or promises of funding. The resulting vacuum is currently undermining these planning groups, threatening to dismantle existing commissions and blocking the establishment of new planning blocs.

 A third of the battles fought during the American Revolutionary War occurred in New York. There are 81 historical societies and museums in our state dedicated to the history of the Founding Era. 19 of the most important sites are owned and operated by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation under direct state government control. [Note the previous blog above on the absence of advocacy on behalf of these sites – PF] New York has played a pivotal role in the story of America since the Revolution, with numerous sites, museums, and historical societies, from Seneca Falls to Stonewall, dedicated to tracing the impact of those events on the subsequent 250 years of American history. There is no state better equipped to connect the history of the advancement of Civil Rights to the American Revolution as the Federal Semiquincentennial Act charges us to do. The potential of that history and the apparatus already in existence to explore it remains unrealized.

 The neglect now occurring at the state level will potentially cost New York dearly in years to come, with the most serious impacts hitting the fields of heritage tourism and education. With so many sites and museums ready to welcome visitors, our state stands to make millions of dollars from a successful, coordinated, supported Rev250 commemorative cycle. In an average year, the Hudson River Valley National Heritage area has a $967million impact on the state economy, supporting nearly ten thousand jobs and contributing $112 million to state and local tax revenues. During a nationwide commemorative cycle that will draw global attention to New York, those revenues and job numbers can only increase. In contrast, if the opportunity of this historical anniversary is ignored, New York will be handing that income to the other 12 original states that have already made tremendous progress in their planning efforts. This cycle also offers the opportunity to reinvigorate local history education, a mission that has predominantly been moved onto the shoulders of local historical societies over the past decades of experimentation with the state education curriculum. Without direction and support from the state, what hope do these local groups have of expanding their educational reach?

 It is not too late for planning efforts to recover and surge forward. We urge the executive branch to take immediate action by seating a commission with historians of the Revolutionary Era, opening budget lines, and beginning a serious planning dialogue to deliver the promised strategic plan to your desk at the earliest opportunity.


 James Skoufis 42 District

Shelley Mayer 37 District


At this point, it is easy to imagine nothing being done in many parts of the state beyond what is normally done for July 4. Fort Ticonderoga will continue to hold its annual conference on the American Revolution. So too will Fort Plain. These forts in the Champlain and Mohawk Valleys continue to tell the story of the American Revolution, but those conferences are for a small audience in a state of millions.

Local municipalities will continue to have parades. However it is quite possible, nothing will distinguish the 2026 parade from the 2025 parade or the 2027 parade. True, there is still time but there will be a contentious presidential election before 2026. There will be continued fights about CRT, 1619, and divisiveness which will sap the energy of people.

Consider the logistics of the situation as described by the two Senators. Right now there is one person appointed to the state commission and several others waiting in the wings. As Johanna Porr noted in her enewsletter quoted in a previous blog noted above, one big issue will be the budget for this year – how much if any will be budgeted specifically for 250th events?

If money is budgeted, how will it be allocated? This is question I raised years ago when examining the position of the state historian and the 250th. Suppose hundreds of historical societies and municipalities through submit applications for funding. What will the guidelines be? How much will be allocated towards the traditional means of celebration, meaning food, family, fireworks and patriotic parades and how much will be allocated towards the striving for a more perfect union for events in the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries? Who will be the person (people) who sift through the submissions and make those decisions? Keep in mind the state historian is a single individual so will the commission assist … or will each commissioner be focused on their own events and not really have a statewide concern?

The federal commission officially expires with the July 4, 2026, Philadelphia celebration. Things in New York really begin to heat up afterwards with the toppling of the statue of King George in lower Manhattan. Think of the prominent events which occur afterwards which have statewide and national implications:

1776 The Battle of New York/Brooklyn/Long Island
1777 The Battle of Saratoga with its Hudson Valley and Mohawk Valley components
1779 The Clinton-Sullivan Campaign
1780 Benedict Arnold
1781 Rochambeau
1783 Newburgh Conspiracy and Evacuation Day.

All these multi-county events have an enormous tourist potential beyond the local history organization to promote or even a county to develop. As noted in a previous blog above, Virginia is putting big money into the 250th with expectation of large increases in tourism. What programs will be created here in recognition of these events? How will they be promoted?

Right now I am in the midst of preparing for the Lafayette Bicentennial of 1824-1825. That event starts next year. I am directly involved in preparing for his arrival in Staten Island (which was not part of New York City then) and his travels in Manhattan, the Bronx (which was part of Westchester then), and Westchester. He only spent a single day in Bronx/Westchester yet he visited numerous locations. I am well aware of the work which goes in to trying to recreate that event mainly on the Boston Post Road and what is now Third Ave.

We are trying to make the Lafayette Bicentennial a celebration, a commemoration, and striving for a more perfect union at a time when a presidential election was tearing the country apart. It can be time consuming to say the least to organize such activities and coordinate them among the eight municipalities he visited plus one which did not exist then but does now. I am having a hard time imaging how he made all these stops in New York plus a few more in Connecticut in a single day traveling by carriage. In some ways the Lafayette Bicentennial where he also was in the Hudson Valley, Mohawk Valley to Niagara and on the Erie Canal practice for the American Revolution 250th. One lesson is time lost cannot be regained and right now New York and the country are losing time.

In the meantime there are actions being taken by state history organizations which are to be commended. They are the Association of Public Historians of New York State (APHNYS) with the state historian and the Museum Association of New York (MANY). In addition one session at the upcoming conference of the American Revolution (June 9-11) held by the Fort Plain Museum will have a session by Devin Lander and Connie Kehoe from the Westchester 250th. That will be for a future blog.


Education and the American Revolution 250th

In this blog, I wish to continue the discussion on the current situation regarding the American Revolution 250th by switching to education.

1. What can be taught in the k-12 classroom?
2. How can the national history organizations help?

I begin by carrying on from the previous blog with its focus on Virginia and the 250th.

It is important to recognize that the 250th does not exist in a vacuum. So far because of the turmoil at federal commission and the time of 2026 still distant in the minds of most people, the 250th is an under-the-radar project. But we should anticipate that if the federal commission ever gets its act together and has funding, it will be caught up in the maelstrom that has enveloped the issue of standards.


By coincidence, the current issue of Perspectives on History by the American Historical Association (AHA) has an article “Maintaining Standards: Recent AHA Contributions to the Fight for Honest History Education.” By even more coincidence, a large portion of the article focuses on Virginia without mention of the 250th.

The article covers the effort by the Virginia Board of Education (VBOE) to revamp its History and Social Science standards. It recounts the rejection of a more than two-year project to revise the standards to a “hastily and behind closed doors” effort to completely overhaul the framework. That was between August 17, 2022 and November 11, 2022.

From its inception, the campaign to rewrite state education policy has embraced rhetoric about preventing political indoctrination in the classroom. The draft and model standards that have come out of this movement, however, themselves treat history education as a form of indoctrination. They target potentially controversial topics and ideas for elimination and reproduce a stilted caricature of history teaching and learning that harks back to a mid-20th century that never was. States like Virginia have explicitly cut references to disciplinary and transferable thinking skills, inquiry, analysis, and civic engagement, while dramatically increasing the number of names, dates, and facts that students must memorize. Carried out with little or no transparency, these efforts endanger students’ education and undermine the very notion of informed civic participation.

Bowing to public pressure, the VBOE opted to set aside the November draft and allow for a substantial rewrite. The story of the Virginia standards was far from over. But prompt intervention from concerned historians, including higher education and secondary school educators, averted a campaign to overhaul history education for political ends.

Carried out with little or no transparency, these efforts endanger students’ education and undermine the very notion of informed civic participation.

The article makes clear that it is a constant struggle. One can never relax and lower one’s guard. The battle over standards is an ongoing on likely to accelerate as people begin wanting to schedule events and programs outside of school for the 250th.

The AHA’s engagement in the review and revision of Virginia’s standards features a dense collaboration with local teachers and educational organizations. In response to widespread criticism, the VBOE promised to merge the controversial November draft with the original August standards to create a compromise proposal. The Virginia Social Studies Leaders Consortium (VSSLC) and the Virginia Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (VASCD) invited the AHA to participate in drafting a collaborative standards document in hopes that the VBOE would consider input from educators.

AHA staff members Lauren Brand and Brendan Gillis traveled to Richmond for a two-day summit, at which representatives and members of all three organizations went line by line through each of the standards, weaving together, revising, and polishing these curricular materials to produce a strong framework for learning that reflected best practices in history and social studies education. Our staff provided guidance, encouragement, and support as classroom educators rebuilt a set of educational standards that improved on an already strong foundation. Once the initial draft was complete, we also arranged for teachers and subject-matter experts to review and vet the changes.

Yet the status of history and social studies education in Virginia remained in flux. In early 2023, the VBOE produced a fourth draft, which it subsequently approved for public review and final revision. At each stage in the process, the AHA joined with other organizations, including the VSSLC, VASCD, the Virginia Council for the Social Studies, and the National Council for the Social Studies, to issue statements and coordinate public feedback. The AHA has also encouraged members in Virginia to participate in the period for public comment and attend the six public hearings.

At this point about all one can say is stay tuned. Ironically, John Adams famously said about the American people, 1/3 support July 4, 1/3 support King George, and 1/3 just want to be left alone (paraphrased). It’s difficult to imagine a more divisive event in American history except of course for the Civil War/War of Northern Aggression. At a time like that, it is far easier to again imagine local communities focusing on the traditional parades, re-enactments, fireworks, and stirring speeches rather than seeking to write a new national narrative that includes people overlooked in the traditional narrative or who have a more negative view of the American Revolution or the striving to create a more perfect union. So while the state has committed substantial resources in the hopes of generating tourism, it remains problematic what will be taught in the classroom and what activities will be sponsored.


The actions of the AHA and AASLH demonstrate some of the work the national history organizations can do. Previously I have expressed concerns if the federal commission had money to distribute and if states were prepared to receive and distribute, it will be the Walmarts and Home Depots of the history community who receive the funding rather than the small local municipal history society of mainly volunteers. That disparity contributes to the likelihood that the local events will be more like the Bicentennial of family, food, fireworks, and patriotic parades than an examination of the striving since 1776-1787 to create a more perfect union. This analysis ignores the impact of the 2024 presidential and congressional elections which remain unknown at present.

Still, there are things the national history organizations can do. As noted in the previous blog for New York and Virginia, the American Revolution250 years ago already was underway now. One way the national history organizations can help guide the conversation, is to help provide information about what was happening 250 years ago.

In other words, starting with 2024, what was going on in 1774? What were newspapers publishing? What were ministers preaching? What sessions should be held today at the annual conferences of these history organizations? It is not enough simply to hold a conference in Philadelphia. The attendance for such an event is small. Especially now where online events are common, the national history organizations can reach out to a national audience about each year of the American Revolution starting with 1774/2024 and lasting until 1783/2033. Such online programs will enable the smaller history organizations and social studies teachers to tap into the current scholarship for each year. It will reach out to states which did not exist in 1776. It will provide opportunities for students to engage the event year by year almost as if they did not know what the outcome would be. After all, today we can look back at Yorktown and say we won; back then people did not have a crystal ball. The end was unknown to them. Good teachers can recreate that uncertainty but they could use a little help from the national history organizations in bringing the American Revolution alive.


As we approach the three year countdown to July 4, 2026, it is an appropriate time to provide an update on what had and has not been going on with American Revolution 250th. The last time I wrote about it was July 1, 2022 (Controversy at the United States Semiquincentennial Commission). Regrettably, it does not seem as if the situation is much improved since then judging by an advocacy notice I received on May 12, 2023, from the American Association for State and Local History AASLH). That organization that has been quite active in promoting the event to its members and interested history people.

AASLH Members and Friends:

As a valued member of the history community, we are reaching out to you to ask for your support in commemorating our nation’s upcoming 250th anniversary by asking your Members of Congress to join the Congressional America250 Caucus. We need your help to encourage Members of Congress to join this important caucus.

With the 250th just three years away, your efforts are urgently needed. We would like you to contact the members of your Congressional delegation and encourage them to join and support the activities of the America250 Caucus in the United States Congress. We have provided a draft email for your consideration below in the event it is helpful.

 As a member of the America250 Caucus, lawmakers will work together to commemorate this significant milestone in our nation’s history and promote national unity and civic engagement. The Caucus will provide a forum for members of Congress to collaborate on ways to engage their constituents, support local events and activities, support the work of history museums and other history organizations, and highlight the importance of our shared history.

 Please take a moment to contact your Congressional delegation and ask them to join the America250 Caucus.

 Thank you for your support in helping to commemorate America’s Semiquincentennial.

 Sample Email

 Dear Representative / Senator _______,

 I hope you’re doing well. On behalf of (Insert Organization Name), I respectfully request that Representative / Senator (Insert Name) join the bipartisan America250 Caucus, chaired by Representative Robert Aderholt (R-AL) and Representative Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ). With the 250th anniversary of our nation’s founding rapidly approaching, we want to ensure that we do not miss out on the opportunity for Americans to learn and reflect on the themes and ideals that unite all of us, including liberty, freedom, and civic engagement. Please contact Laura Titus ( with Representative Robert Aderholt or Brad Korten ( with Representative Watson Coleman to join the caucus.

 Thank you for your consideration.

Reading between the lines, I perceive this plea as a recognition that all is not right with the world of the American Revolution 250th. There is a need to act at the federal level. Since the federal organization is geared towards Philadelphia on July 4, 2026, any funding to support events at the local level will need to be distributed well before then. All such funding will be through the state 250th organizations.


Drilling down from the national level, there are events in Virginia worthy of interest. One should keep in mind that it was Virginia which advertised on the AMC show Turn (AMC Mocks the Path through History August 28, 2016) about the spy network in New York (which did not advertise on the four-year series). In addition, I attended an online meeting about Virginia’s activities on the 250th and summarized the meeting in the blog The 250th Anniversary: A Commonwealth of Virginia Case Study February 1, 2021, over two years ago.

Now Virginia continues to move forward. It convened a meeting held in March which Johanna Yaun, the Orange County historian (full-time position) and chair of the Orange County 250th Commission. The following are excerpts from the report she wrote about the meeting.

A Common Cause for All: A Convening of States on the 250th Anniversary of the call for Committees of Correspondence A Signature Event of the Virginia American Revolution 250 Commission


The Virginia American Revolution 250 Commission invited representatives from across the Nation to participate in a three-day planning meeting of Semiquincentennial stakeholders. From March 10-12, 2023, attendees from 34 states met for “A Convening of States” to mark the occasion of the 250th anniversary of the call for Committees of Correspondence on March 12, 1773. After a reading of the 1773 resolution, state representatives affirmed a new resolution “of mutual support, collaboration, and partnership, signaling the beginning of the Semiquincentennial.” (Although we in New York State beg to differ since we declared the beginning of the 250th anniversary of the Battle of Golden Hill anniversary at Fraunces Tavern on January 19, 2020, See Post). The inclusion of delegates from many states made the ceremony particularly impactful.

These comments highlight the fact that the American Revolution already was underway 250 years ago. There are anniversary events which could be commemorated now. One also wonders why it was a state which convened the meeting and not the national commission. Actually one does not wonder – the federal commission is not functioning.

The pinnacle moment of the weekend was an announcement made by Virginia Senator Thomas K. Norment that the state government was investing $8 million dollars to support the 250th anniversaries and facilitating another $1 million in a donation from Dominion Energy for the same. These investments were made with the expectation that such an investment in civics resources would yield over $1.5 Billion in heritage tourism revenue and support more than 22,000 jobs. These estimates were based on the economic boosts seen during the 1607/2007 and 1619/2019 anniversary periods, focused on the founding of Historic Jamestown.

This is serious money. These comments reflect what was true at the meeting I attended online in 2021. Virginia is committed to making the anniversary a big deal. And like New York, Virginia knows that the story doesn’t cease with the signing of the Declaration of Independence. It also shows that the state is prepared to commit resources to make the anniversary a success. The logical question then what is your state you doing besides waiting for the federal commission to get its act together and be relevant at least before its expiration in 2026.

With one third of the battles of the Revolutionary War taking place in New York State and 81 Revolutionary War museums in the state, many concentrated conveniently in the heavily touristed New York City, Long Island and Hudson River Valley region, this begs the question, why not us?

Some of the blame for this is on the shoulders of the U.S. Semiquincentennial Commission and non-profit arm America 250 who have failed to meet any tangible goals since their founding (and funding) in 2016. When America 250 dropped the bomb in January/February of 2023 that they had laid off most of their staff and were “embarking on an organizational realignment” which essentially pushed all responsibility to the individual states, the disparity between the prepared and the unprepared, widened. But as for New York State specifically, I’ll refrain from providing any insight while we wait (and hope) to see if Governor Kathy Hochul’s budget will address this issue by the end of the month.

But while New York State thus far waits, Virginia has stepped in to offer leadership and benefit from economic gain of providing the venue for stakeholders to convene. Hosted by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation at the Williamsburg Lodge, 300 public historians and government officials were treated to programming and social events aimed at fostering partnerships and communication on the eve of the commemorative period.

This deterioration at the federal level led to the letters from two New York State elected officials (future blog). It also shows that there will be no effort at the national level to craft a new national narrative for the 21st century. History organizations are not going to fill the void either.

President of the Association of State and Local History, John Dichtl, set the tone by presenting two opportunities that the Semiquincentennial period offers. The first is that by popularizing and showcasing “the full sweep of our shared history,” the Founding period can be used as a starting point to attach new meaning for people and groups who have advanced “towards justice” over the past 250 years. He mentioned that 86% of the America public agrees on fundamental ideas about National history and that a Semiquincentennial that both celebrates our strengths and addresses our fallacies is essential to fostering inclusion, relevance and belonging.

The second opportunity he highlighted is that this exploration of America at 250 is a chance to reinvigorate the history profession and bring new support to historical societies and museums. An interesting statistic that was presented was that 35-40% of all history organizations were created in 1966–1986 time frame, a decade before and a decade after the Bicentennial of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1976. The hope is that the 250th will be another moment of reflection for the Nation and a recognition that we should never stop fighting over our past nor the direction of our future.

There are two problems not addressed in these comments by Dichtl as reported by Yaun:

1. The people who formed these new historical organizations after the Bicentennial are now up to 50 years older. Anyone involved in local non-profit volunteer organizations is aware of the trials and tribulations in attracting new members, finding people willing to serve on Boards and getting people to actually do something. Just think of the technological changes which have occurred since the Bicentennial – we are living in what may be considered science fiction times to the people of 1976 and who still are in charge.

2. The local history organizations are likely to focus on local events about what happened in their community and not the full sweep of our shared  national history. Quite possibly at the local level, if there is an effort to go beyond that there will be a replay of the current squabbles over 1619, CRT, and divisiveness. It will be interesting to see how Virginia spends the money it has allocated for the 250th.

Next, Susie Wilkening of Wilkening Consulting offered remarks on her demographic research and how it relates to 250th planning. She discussed intersections of patriotism and identity and looked at what concepts and words divide vs. unite likely museum-goers. She found common ground in that the majority of people expressed that “history is valued and important,” but that it needs “to be engaging” while still maintaining a relaxing tone. The majority of people “feel good about learning” but express that they prefer “hands-on, interactive, living history” to keep their interest.  Respondents ranged along a spectrum from wanting patriotic programming to focus on “the 3 F’s, food, fireworks, family” to a focus on critical thinking about the Nation’s strive for “a more perfect union…”

That last sentence is critical. While there are people and organizations that are concerned about the 250 year effort to strive for a more perfect union since the Revolution, many people are content with the Bicentennial approach particularly at the local level of patriotic food, family, fireworks and parades with nary a woke person in sight.

Yaun described the conference activities in the rest of her enewsletter. In the next blog I switch to the topic of education, both academic and k-12, highlighting Virginia.

Controversy at the United States Semiquincentennial Commission

Semiquincentennial Commission (Wikipedia)

In my last blog, I began to explore the current situation regarding the American Revolution 250th.  I laid out certain parameters and begin to write about them one-by-one. The response was pretty good as I think the history community wants to know what is going on with the 250th.

However, my proposed sequence has been upset by an expose on the fighting at the national level about the event. The article will be published in Philadelphia Magazine in the July issue as “The Battle for America’s Birthday.” I was sent a web link to the online version posted on the magazine’s website June 27, 2022, with the title “The Ugly Philly Centric Feud at the Center of America’s 250th Birthday Celebration” by David Murrell. The article was a shock which is why I am sharing it with the history community


Readers of my blogs generally are aware that Congress established a national commission in 2016 called the United States Semiquincentennial Commission. Since that time, the Commission has operated generally below the radar. Few people have had much contact with it or know what it has been doing.

So far the primary consideration for history organizations has been that it will be the dispenser of funding through the conduit of state organizations. This is partially why the American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) has been so adamant about tracking and promoting the creation of state commissions throughout the country. Besides being a good idea anyway, they will be essential for federal funding at the state and local level.

Two national concerns have been expressed by me and others in relation to this approach.

First, the Commission has an expiration date following the July 4, 2026, celebration. For many states, such as in New York, the 250th anniversaries of events in our states will just be beginning then. For example New Yorkers only toppled the statue of King George III after the Declaration was read in what is now lower Manhattan. The British then occupied the city for seven years until Evacuation Day on November 25, 1783. In other words, the Commission concludes just when the story is accelerating.

Second, many American Revolution events are not bound by state boundaries today. Think of Rochambeau’s March from Rhode Island to Virginia involving nine states and opportunities to work with France today. Note – a sixth generation descendant of Rochambeau already has visited the Odell House in Westchester County where I live, the site where the decision was made to march south instead of trying to evict the British from New York City. The state-based approach is not geared to multi-state events.

In short there were a lot of questions about the operation of the Commission even before this article appeared.


In 2011, Andrew Hohns founded USA250. It was and is a non-profit dedicated simultaneously to a nationwide celebration of the 250th and that it be based in Philadelphia, his city. He envisioned not simply a party but a massive investment worthy of a summer Olympics. Instead of sports venues, the funding would be directed towards infrastructure improvements and historical preservation with longterm benefits. He estimated a minimal budget of $2.5 billion but would have preferred $20.26 billion. Clearly he thinks big!

Philadelphia certainly seems to be a worthy choice for an historic anniversary celebration. It is where the Declaration of Independence was written, approved, and declared. It has buildings and a bell from that time. It hosted the Centennial in 1876, the Sesquicentennial in 1926, and the Bicentennial in 1976 which some of the readers of this blog may have attended. The Centennial cost $300 million in current dollars and had an attendance of 10 million people equal to 25% of the population of the country. Imagine 80 million people pouring into Philadelphia today! How would they travel to the city and around the city? Where would they stay? What would they see?

It is reasonable to understand why a local Philadelphian would dream big about 2026, but that is not the same as operating a national history commission today.


In 2014, the USA250 had a fulltime executive director. It had provisional funding commitments from major corporations like Walmart and Johnson & Johnson. As a private non-profit, it seemed on its way to bigger and better things. So when the Commission began in 2018 to search for the official non-profit partner, Hohns expected his entity would be the chosen one.

Wrong. Instead the Commission chose the American Battlefield Trust. I get their emails. It does just what its name suggests – it seeks to acquire, restore, and maintain battlefields. Traditionally these battlefields are from the Civil War. There is nothing in its history that would suggest it is the right organization to steer the celebration of the 250th either in Philadelphia or nationally. Apparently, the organization soon realized it and bowed out. This led to the creation of the American250 Foundation and it and not the USA250 remains the partner as of today.


The article details the members of the voluntary Commission. The appointees tended to be white males as one might expect even in the Obama era. They also tended to be from Pennsylvania. Then in 2019, the aforementioned America250 Foundation was created as a non-profit tasked with running the day-to-day planning for the 250th. According to the article the story of the American250 Foundation is not a pretty one. This foundation operates without effective supervision, no one is in charge, has contentious on-line meetings where the mute button is used prominently, awards non-competitive contracts to “consultant” friends, to say nothing of a sexist and toxic work environment. And this was only with the first $20 million of federal funding. Naturally, there have been lawsuits.

In 2021, Anna Laymon who had been executive director of the federal commission of the women’s suffrage centennial, took the position of Vice President of programming and planning. She had heard that the American250 Foundation “had a reputation for being a total disaster” as quoted in the article.  She soon learn the warnings were justified as detailed in the article as well.

According to Commissioner Noah Griffin who had been appointed by House Speaker Nancy Peolosi, “The whole thing has basically been a sham.”

Rene Burchard who was hired in April 2020 as the chief administrative officer without there being a coherent organization to administer, said absent leadership changes at the Federal Commission, “I do not see any way that this is going to be what the vision was in the beginning.”

Later in 2021, Joe Daniels who had been the CEO of the 9/11 Memorial in New York City (and on my NYC distribution list), became CEO.

According to the article Hohns worries that the Semiquincentennial risks being still born years before it’s even set to begin. That comment signifies a lack of concern for the events prior to July 4, 1776, as well as afterwards. I guess the Boston Tea Party and Lexington and Concord are not part of Hohns thinking either. There is no sense of addressing what the national narrative should be for the 21st century. There is no sense that what increasingly is understood as America’s first civil war is relevant today as we fight the third one. Who knows if there even will be a united United States of America with the current 50 states on July 4, 2026, anyway?

My suggestion that Joe Biden name George Bush and Barack Obama as co-chairs of the federal commission seems better and better. For now, local and state organizations should think about Plan B. Nationally, it seems like we are on the Titanic with the iceberg dead ahead in broad daylight and we are aimed at it.

The American Revolution 250th: A Time to Heal or a Time to Divide?

Illegal Alien, Newspaper Reporter, Enemy of the People

Now that this year’s July 4th celebration is over, it is time to start looking ahead to the big one, July 4, 2026. That date marks the 250th anniversary of the declaring of the United States of America. It also is the bicentennial of the deaths of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, the second and third presidents. They had been part of a committee to draft the Declaration and became extensive pen-pals following their presidencies. At the time of their deaths on the 50th anniversary of the birth of the country there was only one possible explanation for it: divine providence.

The Founding Fathers regarded their creation as an experiment. They knew they were undertaking something never before undertaken on such a scale. They knew it might fail. To have reached the milestone of 50 years following a second war with Great Britain when the White House had been burned was something to celebrate. The idea that their handiwork would still be around 250 years after its creation and as a global superpower would have been considered science fiction fantasy had they known those terms.

But here we are approaching the semiquincentennial, not a word I had ever used before. I learned that word from the legislation passed on July 22, 2016, ‘‘United States Semiquincentennial Commission Act of 2016.”


(a) FINDINGS.—Congress finds that July 4, 2026, the 250th anniversary of the founding of the United States, as marked by the Declaration of Independence in 1776, and the historic events
preceding that anniversary—
(1) are of major significance in the development of the national heritage of the United States of individual liberty, representative government, and the attainment of equal and inalienable rights; and
(2) have had a profound influence throughout the world.
(b) PURPOSE.—The purpose of this Act is to establish a Commission to provide for the observance and commemoration of the 250th anniversary of the founding of the United States and related events through local, State, national, and international activities planned, encouraged, developed, and coordinated by a national commission representative of appropriate public and private authorities and organizations.

One wonders about the American Revolution events subsequent to July 4, 1776, a subject to which I shall return. Still, the breadth of the mandate is breathtaking. The phrase “planned, encourage, developed, and coordinated” raises multiple questions of how this national commission will operate on the local, state, and international level.

The commission will consist of members of both Houses, private citizens appointed by both Houses, and a chair selected by the President.

(a) IN GENERAL.—There is established a commission, to be known as the ‘‘United States Semiquincentennial Commission’’, to plan, encourage, develop, and coordinate the commemoration of the history of the United States leading up to the 250th anniversary of the founding of the United States.

Once again notice the drop dead date of July 4, 2026, as if nothing happened in the American Revolution afterwards. It is as if what is important are the events leading up to Philadelphia and then the story of the American Revolution stops. As it turns out, the legislative focus on Philadelphia is not by chance.

(d) MEETINGS.—All meetings of the Commission shall be convened at Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to honor the historical significance of the building as the site of deliberations and adoption of both the United States Declaration of Independence and Constitution.

This clause stresses that Philadelphia is to be the one and only location for the commission. No commission meetings are to be held in any other locations that were important to the American Revolution including for events prior to July 4, 1776 or subsequent to that date.

(a) IN GENERAL.—The Commission shall—
            (1) prepare an overall program for commemorating the 250th anniversary of the founding of the United States and the historic events preceding that anniversary; and Pennsylvania.
            (2) plan, encourage, develop, and coordinate observances and activities commemorating the historic events that preceded, and are associated with, the United States Semiquincentennial.
            (1) IN GENERAL.—In preparing plans and an overall program, the Commission—
                        (A) shall give due consideration to any related plans and programs developed by State, local, and private groups; and
                        (B) may designate special committees with representatives from groups described in subparagraph (A) to plan, develop, and coordinate specific activities.
            (2) EMPHASIS.—The Commission shall—
                        (A) emphasize the planning of events in locations of historical significance to the United States, especially in those locations that witnessed the assertion of American liberty, such as—
                                    (i) the 13 colonies; and
                                    (ii) leading cities, including Boston, Charleston, New York City, and Philadelphia;

The general duties suggest an awareness that significant events occurred prior to July 4, 1776, that they were not in Philadelphia, and that the national commission is to work in some way with others who are commemorating those events. Specifically it recognizes that state, local, and private groups may develop plans and programs on their own initiative. Furthermore, the national commission may create committees to include representatives of these organizations. Specifically, the legislation calls attention to the 13 colonies and the big four cities besides Philadelphia. One would think therefore that one such committee would consist of the 13 state semiquincentennial commissions should the 13 states create their own commissions. Could such committees meet outside of Philadelphia or are they bound by the same restrictions as the national commission? Is there any role for the other 37 states plus various territories that are part of the United States? Are they part of the celebration of the American Revolution too?

(B) give special emphasis to—
                                    (i) the role of persons and locations with significant impact on the history of the United States during the 250-year period beginning on the date of execution of the Declaration of Independence; and
                                    (ii) the ideas associated with that history, which have been so important in the development of the United States, in world affairs, and in the quest for freedom of all mankind.

Needlesstosay, this special emphasis is extremely broad. First, the American Revolution from July 4, 1776 to November 25, 1783, when the British evacuated New York City, a local holiday until World War I now revived by the Lower Manhattan Historical Association, is ignored. Second, the legislation now opens the emphasis to people, places, and ideas who were significant to the history of the United States, its place in world history, and the global quest for freedom. Somehow this national commission is charged with identifying and blessing all those over a 250-year period. In New York where I live that practically means grab the text books for 7th and 8th grade social studies American history classes and go to the index….and then fill in the gaps for everything and everyone and everywhere overlooked in the official curriculum.

(1) IN GENERAL.—Not later than 2 years after the date of enactment of this Act, the Commission shall submit to the President a comprehensive report that includes the specific recommendations of the Commission for the commemoration of the 250th anniversary and related events.

This report was due on July 22, 2018. The commission had not even met by then (see below). One suspects the July 22, 2019, date will come and go without such a report having been prepared. As for the contents of these specific recommendations:

  (2) RECOMMENDED ACTIVITIES.—The report may include recommended
activities such as—
                        (A) the production, publication, and distribution of books, pamphlets, films, and other educational materials focusing on the history, culture, and political thought of the period of the American Revolution;
                        (B) bibliographical and documentary projects and publications;
                        (C) conferences, convocations, lectures, seminars, and other programs, especially those located in the 13 colonies, including the major cities and buildings of national historical
significance of the 13 colonies;
                        (D) the development of libraries, museums, historic sites, and exhibits, including mobile exhibits;
                         (E) ceremonies and celebrations commemorating specific events, such as—
                                    (i) the signing of the Declaration of Independence;
                                    (ii) programs and activities focusing on the national and international significance of the United States Semiquincentennial; and
                                    (iii) the implications of the Semiquincentennial for present and future generations; and
                        (F) encouraging Federal agencies to integrate the celebration of the Semiquincentennial into the regular activities and execution of the purpose of the agencies through such activities as the issuance of coins, medals, certificates of recognition, stamps, and the naming of vessels.

The report then is to include activities beyond Philadelphia. Even if state commissions had been created in the 13 former colonies, this report would be a major undertaking in itself.

There are a lot of moving parts to this endeavor.

(a) IN GENERAL.—In carrying out this Act, the Commission shall consult and cooperate with, and seek advice and assistance from, appropriate Federal agencies, State and local public bodies, learned societies, and historical, patriotic, philanthropic, civic, professional, and related organizations.
            (1) IN GENERAL.—Federal agencies shall cooperate with the Commission in planning, encouraging, developing, and coordinating appropriate commemorative activities.

A great deal of communication will be required to make this project work.

(a) HEARINGS.—The Commission may hold such hearings, meet and act at such times and places, take such testimony, and receive such evidence as the Commission considers advisable to carry out this Act.

Presumably they all are to be held in Philadelphia. One hopes that everyone participating in such hearings is in driving distance or Amtrak-northeast-corridor distance from Philadelphia.

There will be a time capsule.

(1) TIME CAPSULE.—A representative portion of all books, manuscripts, miscellaneous printed matter, memorabilia, relics, and other materials relating to the United States Semiquincentennial shall be deposited in a time capsule—
                        (A) to be buried in Independence Mall, Philadelphia, on July 4, 2026; and
                        (B) to be unearthed on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of the United States of America on July 4, 2276.

Unfortunately the Federal Government at present cannot undertake any scientific studies to determine if that location will be underwater or not in another 250 years. (By coincidence see “A Rising Threat to History: Climate Change Is Forcing Preservationists to Get Creative in Rhode Island,” NYT July 9, 2019, print edition.)

There will be no public funding for the commission.

(a) IN GENERAL.—All expenditures of the Commission shall be made solely from donated funds.

Some lucky non-profit will be selected to actually do the work.

(b) ADMINISTRATIVE SECRETARIAT.—The Secretary of the Interior shall, through a competitive process, seek to enter into an arrangement with a nonprofit organization, the mission of which is consistent with the purpose of this Act. Under such arrangement, such nonprofit organization shall—
            (1) serve as the secretariat of the Commission, including by serving as the point of contact under section 5(e);
            (2) house the administrative offices of the Commission;
            (3) assume responsibility for funds of the Commission; and
            (4) provide to the Commission financial and administrative services, including services related to budgeting, accounting, financial reporting, personnel, and procurement.

And then everything will end.

The Commission shall terminate on December 31, 2027.

As one might expect, Philadelphia was a driving force in the adoption of this legislation.

In 2014, the Philadelphia City Council ordered a public hearing of the Committee on Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs to investigate “the impact and feasibility of Philadelphia” hosting the United States Semiquincentennial in 2026, among other events.[5] The following year a non-profit organization, USA250, was established in Philadelphia to lobby for federal government support of the United States semiquincentennial and establish Philadelphia as the host city for events surrounding the semiquincentennial observances.[6]  (Wikipedia)

The American Battlefield Trust has been named the commission’s non-profit partner to serve as Administrative Secretariat, tasked with preparing reports for Congress and helping raise funds for the anniversary observances.

Daniel DiLella, CEO and President of Equus, a leading private equity real estate fund, was appointed Chairperson of the Semiquincentennial Commission in April 2018. In May 2018, DiLella named Frank Giordano as the commission’s executive director. Giordano, who heads Atlantic Trailer Leasing in Philadelphia, led the rejuvenation of two formerly struggling Philadelphia institutions, the Philly Pops Orchestra and Union League club. (Wikipedia)

In the meantime, some activity has occurred at the state level.

Pennsylvania became the first state to formally begin planning for the anniversary in June 2018 when the commonwealth established the Pennsylvania Semiquincentennial Commission. Four months later, on October 17, Gov. Tom Wolf named Fresh Grocer supermarket magnate and philanthropist Patrick Burns to chair the state commission. (Wikipedia)

In 2018 and 2019, I attended the Massachusetts History Alliance conferences held at Holy Cross. While there I met Jonathan Lane, Massachusetts Historical Society. His job is the 250th in the state. Note he works for a non-profit and there is no state commission there. The Massachusetts dilemma is it cannot wait for 2026. The Boston Massacre (1770), the Boston Tea Party (1773), Lexington and Concord (1775), and Bunker Hill (1775) to name some prominent events all occurred prior to July 4, 1776. How will the national commission assist in the planning and development of these commemorations starting next year? What will the state of Massachusetts do?

In August 2018, the State of New Jersey launched its effort when Gov. Phil Murphy signed a measure that called on the New Jersey Historical Commission to create a program focused on the 250th anniversary of the independence of the United States as well as the creation of the state’s first Constitution. The law appropriated $500,000 to fund the historical commission’s planning for the 250th anniversary festivities. (Wikipedia)

Jonathan did tell me he attended a meeting in Philadelphia with about 30 people. According to a press release from American Battlefield Trust there was a meeting with the 33 members of the commission on November 16, 2018, in Philadelphia. I did not notice any additional meetings or events on its website about the commission.

In New York where I live, there is no state commission. Devin Lander, the New York State historian has held two meetings about the 250th. The first was in Saratoga, location of the battle in 1777 that has been called one of the critical battles of the 18th century. But it occurred after July 4, 1776. So did the iconic toppling of the statue of George III in lower Manhattan (July 9, 1776), the hanging of Nathan Hale (September 22, 1776), the Sullivan Campaign (1779), Benedict Arnold (1780), the Newburg Conspiracy (1783), Evacuation Day (November 25, 1783). The second meeting he called was hosted by the Institute for Thomas Paine Studies at Iona College named after a significant figure in the American Revolution. Additional meetings are expected.

In Westchester County, New York, where I live, the RW250 was formed in 2018. It is applying for 501(c)3 status. It has been holding lectures throughout the county about the American Revolution in the county. To the best of my knowledge, it is the only such organization in the state.

What does all this mean?

1. There will be a big event in Philadelphia on July 4, 2026. Of course, the city already celebrates July so it is not comparable to the Jamestown Quadricentennial which was a one-time event.
2. There will be some international events. Perhaps in London on the same day. Perhaps in Canada which we invaded. Perhaps in Paris which came to our aid after the Battle of Saratoga in 1777. Perhaps in China where the Statue of Liberty is a revered figure or maybe in Hong Kong.
3. What about multi-state events? How about the capture of Fort Ticonderoga in New York in 1775 by Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold with the Connecticut and Massachusetts militias followed by the transport of the fort’s canons under Henry Knox to Boston? Or the Rochambeau Trail from Rhode Island to Virginia which already operates as a below-the-radar National Park Service Project?
4. What about multi-country events? How about the invasion of Canada, the evacuation to Canada, the evacuation to the Caribbean?
5. What about the rest of continental United States beyond the 13 colonies? What about the Spanish colonies? What about the Indian Nations?

At this point it is too early to know as the national commission is in its infancy even though the report was due last year with specific recommendations.

But there are larger issues of concern beyond simply commemorating events, places, and ideas of 250 years ago. How do we connect people today to them? How do we get all Americans to recognize July 4 as the birth of their country regardless of when they or their family first arrived here? The musical “Hamilton” shows that it can be done. To paraphrase, it famously asks of its audience “who will tell our story?” What America needs is not fireworks, tanks, and big extravaganzas. What we need are the stories of our birth as a country that can reknit the social fabric, that can bind us together from “California to the New York island,” and that can make us We the People. That is not the mandate of the United States Semiquincentennial Commission for the American Revolution. Where is our Lincoln to remind us of what happened twelve score and ten years ago?