General Collections: The HSRC Bicentennial Quilts

Bicentennial 'Day' Quilt
Bicentennial Quilters

In 1976, the United States celebrated the 200th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Patriotic festivals, celebrations, and other Bicentennial observances across the country marked this auspicious occasion. The American Freedom Train and Operation Sail were among the largest. The American Revolution Bicentennial Commission, appointed by President Gerald Ford, and each state’s Bicentennial Commission coordinated most of the events. President Ford stated in his official Bicentennial message,

“For two centuries our Nation has grown, changed and flourished. A diverse people, drawn from all corners of the Earth, have joined together to fulfill the Promise of Democracy. . . . The Bicentennial offers each of us the opportunity to join with our fellow citizens in honoring the past and preparing for the future in communities across the nation.”

The idea to commemorate the Bicentennial by creating a quilt reflecting the history of Rockland County was originally the brainchild of Mrs. Mary Kennedy of Pearl River.

With the sponsorship of the Historical Society of Rockland County and a grant from the American the Beautiful Fund, she was able to assemble an imaginative and hardworking group of women and men. So many people reponded to her call for volunteers that the decision was made to create two quilts. One would be worked by a "day" group, and the other by a "night" group.

The first meeting of the groups was held on February 21, 1975. One year later, after many ideas, decisions, discussions, and hours of hard labor labor, the quilts were completed.

The Pearl River Library, New City Library, Marine Midland Bank, Ladentown Methodist Church, Ethan Allen Gallery, New City Town Hall, and Masonic Temple in Sparkill provided space in their buildings for th qiters. Hutton-Johnson donated the lumber for the quilting frame, which was built by the Industrial Arts class of Pearl River High School. 

In preparation for the first exhibition of the Bicentennial Quilts in 1976, each quilter, together with HIstorical Society staff, prepared a short description of the history of his or her square. Some of those descriptions, written 40 years ago, have been superseded by more recent research, but the original cards are maintained in the HSRC Collection as historical artifacts in their own right.

Volunteers have made--and continue to make--a significant impact on the success of the Historical Society of Rockland County.

The "Day" and "Night" Bicentennial Quilts are now on display at the HSRC History Center, 20 Zukor Road, New City, as part of the "Rockland Voices" exhibition.They not only illustrate the strength of grassroots volunteerism but also teach lessons about Rockland County history.

For more information about the "Rockland Voices" exhibition, including hours of operation, click here


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