45 Years Later: Spirit of Ohio Bicentennial Photo Contest

Submitted by Larry Nighswander of Brunswick, Ohio, this photograph shows a father supporting his sleeping son on his shoulders in Bettsville. Via Ohio Memory.

Just in time for the long July 4th weekend, Ohio Memory now features 140 photographs from the Spirit of Ohio Collection (State Archives Series 2734 AV). If you need inspiration for patriotic attire (don’t miss this fashion icon), float or bicycle decorations for a parade, colonial costumes for all, or a fire hydrant makeover, then look no further.

This photograph of a man and boy in overalls standing outside a house was one of ten to win Honorable Mention in the professional category. Congratulations James Pierre of Cincinnati! Via Ohio Memory.

In 1970, Ohio Governor James Rhodes signed legislation to plan, coordinate, and carry out Ohio’s celebration and commemoration of the American Bicentennial. Leading Ohio’s commemorative efforts was the Ohio American Revolution Bicentennial Commission, a body of state officials and appointed citizens who received suggestions and made recommendations for the festivities. In August 1976, the Commission kicked off the Spirit of Ohio Bicentennial Photo Contest, which would document the spirit and character of the people and places in Ohio during the Bicentennial year. In addition, it sought to create a permanent photographic archive of the year’s festivities for use by future researchers. Now 45 years after the Bicentennial, that’s exactly what this collection provides us today.

Contestants could submit photographs in either the amateur or professional category, and the photographs could be black-and-white or color. The collection includes a wide array of subjects–historical reenactments and costumed interpreters, historic sites and landmarks decorated for various patriotic celebrations and parades–which show the fun and creative ways Ohioans chose to celebrate. Although they may look a little different today, most of these activities are common ways we celebrate Memorial Day and July 4th today, and it’s interesting to see how things have changed (and nostalgic for many!). The photographs of historic sites across the state can provide insight into how these spaces were experienced by others in the past, how the space has changed in the last 45 years, and the kinds of places that were most important or impactful to Ohioans in the 1970s.

Amateur photographer Robert Schimpf of Bucyrus submitted this photograph of the bridge on Marion-Melmore Road in Crawford County sporting red, white, and blue. Via Ohio Memory.

While the subjects of many of this collections’ photographs highlight the Bicentennial and other patriotic events, some of the most evocative images show every day people doing simple, ordinary things. Photographs of farmers, laborers, sporting events, and smiling children truly capture the faces and daily lives of the many people, from all walks of life, who make our state great and call Ohio home.

Take a break from the cookout to browse the Spirit of Ohio Collection, explore the the July 4th parades of past Ohioans or read this blog post for more patriotic images on Ohio Memory!

Thank you to Kristen Newby, Digital Projects Coordinator at the Ohio History Connection, for this week’s post!




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