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American Revolution 250th: What’s Going On?

Graphic by America 250.

What is going on in the world of the American Revolution 250th? What follows is by no means a comprehensive report. It is a review of items that happen to cross my email by being a member of various lists. I present them in terms of scope starting at the national level


Hi Peter,

As one of the original supporters of America250, I wanted you to be one of the first people to know – starting on the 4th of July this year, we’re officially kicking off the countdown to the 250th commemoration with America’s Invitation. This campaign will touch Americans from all across the country and expand our community planning the commemoration of America’s 250th anniversary in 2026 – and I’m hoping that you can be a part of this historic moment. 

America’s Invitation is a chance for Americans to share their pride in their communities, culture, and experiences to capture and pass down to future generations. We’ll share these reflections as part of our mission to tell the full American story and to create the most inclusive commemoration in our history.

We are in the process of collecting submissions ahead of the launch of America’s Invitation on July 4, 2023, and I want to personally invite you to share your story. Whether it’s a photo of a meaningful local landmark, reflections on how you want to mark this historic milestone, or even a family recipe passed down through generations, we want you to share anything that is unique to you. This will give Americans the chance to learn about each other and preserve a portrait of America at 250.

Your story is the American story. Share a photo, video, poem, or other reflection with us today!

In anticipation of launching America’s Invitation, stay tuned for our next email in the coming days, where we’ll have more information on the road to the 250th commemoration in 2026 and other ways that you can get involved.

Thank you again for being a part of America250. With your help, we’ll make sure this is a commemoration that will make every American proud.

Warm regards,

The Honorable Rosie Rios
Chair, United States Semiquincentennial Commission

A few weeks later there was a followup email along the same lines. These emails show the national organization is alive and starting to reach out the American public. This is a welcome step forwards. Of course it is still bound by 2026.

National: Omohundro Institute of Early American History & Culture

Hosted by Maria DiBenigno, Hilary Miller, and Amy Speckart
Revolutionary Narratives: Reconsidering Commemorations at the U.S. 250th
Wednesdays at 4 pm ET (7/26, 8/2, 8/9, 8/16, 8/23)

What will 2026 look like at historic sites, museums, in libraries and archives, at schools and universities, in community organizations and local cultural institutions, at art museums and on historic battlefields? We already know that U.S. Semiquincentennial commemorations will be diffuse, decentralized, and debated. At national conferences and with regional planning committees, the facilitators, members of the working group Revolutionary Narratives, are exploring the possibilities of 2026 while acknowledging the long and problematic history of commemorations in the United States.

In our Coffeehouse, we will explore seven questions that have come up in conversation over the last two years.

1. How do we learn from past national commemorations?
2. How does popular culture influence and is influenced by public commemorations?
3. How do we encourage social responsibility during the 250th, especially when confronting gun culture, gender and race relations, climate crises, disinformation campaigns, etc.?
4. How do we produce historical knowledge, and what are we overlooking or undervaluing?
5. How can we think inclusively about the American Revolution and the 250th?
6. How can we think expansively about the American Revolution and the 250th?
7. How do we use this moment to bring the public together and respond to community interest, and who is the U.S. Semiquincentennial for?

We welcome anyone interested in the U.S. 250th to join the conversation—graduate students, public history practitioners, independent scholars, etc. Ultimately, our Coffeehouse will develop a short reflection piece, like a blog post, to reconsider the real-world implications of doing the 250th.

REGISTER HERE for “Revolutionary Narratives: Reconsidering Commemorations at the 250th”

Here we have a national history organization stepping in to provide informal coffee house discussions on the 250th. Although I have not been able to attend any of these online sessions so far, I will try in the future. I don’t know if they are recorded or not. In any event, good questions are being asked and discussed by people like you so it is worth a try.

NATIONAL: NCHE (National Council for History Education)

Educate and Commemorate: America’s 250th Anniversary in America’s Classrooms
September 19, 2023 ~ 7:30pm ET
Madeleine Rosenberg, American Association for State and Local History
LeRae Umfleet, North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources
Stephanie Hartman, Colorado Department of Education, America 250 – Colorado 150 Commission
Katie Roach, American 250 – Colorado 150 Commission

In 2026, the Declaration of Independence turns 250 years old. Americans continue to grapple with the impact of that document and how we have, and haven’t, lived up to its ideals. Students need to be included in these conversations, whether they live in one of the original 13 colonies or anywhere else in the United States. Join the American Association for State and Local History and two state organizations – from North Carolina and Colorado – to learn about commemoration efforts across the nation and how education initiatives are gearing up for America’s 250th.

Here is another national organization, this time a little more teacher oriented than museum, with a national program.


Fort Ticonderoga has announced the creation of the 250th Northern Department, as part of its plans for the national 250th commemoration of the American War for Independence. This initiative will promote and market regional historic sites during the commemorative period from 2024-2027 and beyond through print and digital content and social media platforms.

The announcement came at a recent regional 250th commemoration meeting, held in Fort Ticonderoga’s Mars Education Center. Representatives from over 50 partnering organizations, museums and historic sites from across New York, Vermont, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Canada were in attendance to discuss 250th commemorative plans.

“The Northern Department shouldered the assault of British forces from the Canada in 1776 and 1777, culminating in the surrender of John Burgoyne’s army in October of 1777, forever altering the course of American history,” said Devin R. Lander, New York State Historian. “Today, as we build plans to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the War for the American Independence, we are thrilled to see Fort Ticonderoga initiate the recreation of the Northern Department. This project, connecting key partners in New York, Vermont and Canada, will promote Northern Department historic sites and draw hundreds of thousands of visitors to the region during the commemorative period.”

“It might be said that Washington’s tour of the forts and battlefields of the Northern Department in 1783 made this region collectively the site of the first Revolutionary War tourism,” said Beth L. Hill, Fort Ticonderoga President and CEO. “The Northern Department was critical to American victory in the Revolution and was recognized early on as the site of remarkable human achievements combined with some of America’s most dramatic scenery. Today we are energized to build off this legacy, encourage travel and catapult our region into the forefront of 250th commemoration in New York, the United States, North America, and beyond!”

Fort Ticonderoga will commemorate the 250th anniversary of the American Revolution as the conflict that shaped our nation. To serve our mission of preservation and education, Fort Ticonderoga will explore the individuals, alliances, triumphs, and challenges of the long war to achieve American independence and their lasting impact on the United States and the world.  To learn more about 250th programs, events and other commemorative plans, visit

This level of international and multistate cooperation is a welcome development. Not all events in the American Revolution were restricted by our boundary lines to day. I look forward to trips for teachers and the general public to these multiple locations over the course of the 2024-2027 period. Back when I was doing teacherhostels/historyhostels, Fort Ticonderoga was one of the regular stops and I got to watch the Mars Education Center being build. I predict some very specific events and activities as a result of this collaboration and hope to be able to participate in them.

This model also can be used for other geographic areas even if confined to one state. I hope there will be presentations at history and museum conferences about the ongoing developments of this initiative.


Preparing for the 250th in Connecticut

When: Wednesday, August 09, 2023 11:00 AM, EDT

Join us to learn more about Connecticut’s Semiquincentennial Commission, resources that they have released, and resources that are in development. Share your current plans and receive resources to help with planning for Connecticut’s commemoration of the 250th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. This program is run in collaboration with CT Humanities. 

Connecticut has an up and running state commission which includes the Connecticut League of Historic Organizations (CLHO). I am a member and attended this online session without about 135 other people. Some of what happened in Connecticut does overlap with New York State such as Sybil Ludington who a couple of the participants mentioned. There was even mention of the Lafayette Bicentennial in 1824 and 1825. This was of interest me as I am working with the American Friends of Lafayette to celebrate that event in New York.


Revolutionary Hudson Valley is a newly formed not-for-profit organization, supported by the Greater Hudson Heritage Network (GHHN), to assist with planning and coordinating the 250th anniversary in the Hudson Valley region. Spearheaded by Dutchess County historian Dr. William Tatum III, representatives from the region will actively assist, support, and publicize local 250th riverside events in Dutchess, Rockland, Westchester, Putnam, Orange, Sullivan, Ulster, Green and Columbia Counties, reaching out to key stakeholders including historians, historical societies, tourism professionals and elected officials and potential funders.

The story of the American Revolution in the Hudson Valley cannot be told by county. Think of Benedict Arnold and John André for example. Here we have an example of a regional history organization within a state taking the lead in creating a non-profit to serve the same areas it does in its museum work. I am sure we will hear more about it at upcoming annual conference, now live again, to be held at Boscobel this fall.


As the country looks ahead to the 250th anniversary of the Revolutionary War, leaders on Long Island have announced plans for a commemoration of the region’s local ties to the American War for Independence. 

A bi-county planning commission will design a series of events to commemorate the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and the role that Long Island played during the Revolutionary War period.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman announced the formation of the commission this week at Sagtikos Manor — a former headquarters for the British Army. “This is something we will be commemorating as a nation but it’s important that we commemorate it here on Long Island because of the pivotal role that Long Island played during this founding of our nation and during this revolutionary period,” Bellone said.

Local historians, educators and representatives from the five Native American nations on Long Island will participate in the planning to focus on local battles, the political division of loyalists versus revolutionaries and the impact on local residents.

Sandi Brewster-Walker, a historian and a member of the Montaukett Indian Nation, said she was happy to be involved in the planning and hoped the commission would take a realistic view of the region’s Revolutionary War history. “This is a time period that we, the Montaukett, we the Native Americans on Long Island, we lost our land,” she said. “And usually people don’t talk about that. But we also had numerous people from Long Island that were Native American that fought on both sides of the Revolutionary War.”

The combination of the two counties is a natural one. There will, of course, be connections with Connecticut. Nathan Hale and the Culper spy ring come to mind. The inclusion of the Montaukett Indian Nation in the commission and the planning indicates that the story of the American Revolution will be more inclusive than it has been in the past.


As the nation prepares to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the American Revolution, Montgomery County, NY is making its own preparations by establishing a commission to create educational programming, events and messaging to promote the county’s significant connections to the Revolutionary War.

The sound of musket fire and cannon blasts once echoed across Tryon County and the Mohawk Valley. During the late 1770s and early 1780s, the founding of America and the struggle for freedom was playing out in part across Montgomery County, New York.

Visit Montgomery County, the county’s tourism initiative, has already prioritized local historic assets as part of its broader messaging, because of the interest generated by residents and visitors from outside of the region.

Publicly accessible sites in Montgomery County connected to the Revolutionary War include the Stone Arabia Battlefield and the Stone Arabia churches (including the cemetery where Col. John Brown is buried); The Fort Plain Museum; Fort Klock Historic Restoration; Old Fort Johnson National Historic Landmark; Van Alstyne Homestead; Fort Lewis and the Currytown Massacre site; Isaac Paris House; and Palatine Church.

Members of the County Legislature passed a resolution officially establishing the Commission during their meeting on June 27th.

Members of the Revolutionary War 250th Commemoration Commission are expected to be tasked with developing public programming, events and marketing materials that commemorate and honor the Revolutionary War, including the Battle of Stone Arabia and other activities that occurred in the county at that time. Commission members will create a logo and messaging that showcases the county’s connections to the war, with an eye toward promoting long-term heritage tourism.

The commission is expected to consist of 13 members, representing local historic sites, county government, and other relevant stakeholders.

This county initiative is welcome news to me. I have attended multiple conferences on the American Revolution there hosted by the Fort Plain Museum. Indeed at the last conference, speakers from Saratoga and Westchester counties presented on what they are doing. The former has a government commission led by the county historian while the latter has a non-profit 501(c)3 and has been very active this past year giving lectures throughout the county and holding family events.

I hope Montgomery County will take the lead in reaching to nearby counties to create a Mohawk Valley American Revolution Commission which will include some of the Haudenosaunee nations (not all of them are located in the Mohawk Valley).

This overview shows that people at the ground level are starting to do things. They are organizing at the county and multiple county regional level to tell the story of the American Revolution. Even in New York with its unstaffed and unfunded state commission people are working through their local county governments to prepare for the 250th and the years beyond. I suspect at some point the pace will pick up.

I apologize to people who are working on the 250th who were not included in this blog but as I said it is based on various email notices I receive and not from researching the communities.




Education and the American Revolution 250th

Graphic by America 250.

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.


Graphic by America 250.

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?