TABLE OF CONTENTS
RG 055, George Washington Bicentennial Commission
Inventory of Records
Finding aid prepared by Michael Forino and Allen Ramsey.
Copyright © 2011 by the Connecticut State Library
In 1924 United States Senator Simeon D. Fess of Ohio proposed that a nationwide George Washington celebration should take place during the 200th anniversary of the birth of our first president, George Washington on February 22, 1932. In December of 1924 a joint resolution was signed by President Calvin Coolidge to officially create such a celebration. The principle purpose of the celebration was to enhance American citizens' understandings of the life of George Washington.1 Washington would once again be seen as the man, the farmer, the businessman, and the statesman rather than the fictitious character depicted for decades by misguided historians.2 To ensure that the intellectual function of the celebration was maintained, President Coolidge created a National Bicentennial Commission which would supervise the proceedings on national, state and local levels.
A former music and entertainment entrepreneur turned United States representative was charged with leading the commission. Under the leadership of Representative Sol Bloom, the George Washington Bicentennial not only overcame the trials of the Great Depression but received participation on all levels, even globally. Bloom was a man of unequivocal talent in the public relations field which allowed him certain liberties to effectively govern the bicentennial commission. Bloom took his responsibility to heart and endeavored to recreate George Washington in the spirits and minds of all Americans.3
In 1931 the Connecticut General Assembly passed House Bill number 1115 which authorized Governor Wilbur L. Cross to appoint a state bicentennial commission consisting of five members whom would receive no compensation for their services. The five men appointed to the commission were Charles Welles Gross, James L. McConaughy, Ernest W. Butterfield, George S. Goddard as secretary, and Samuel R. Spencer as chairman. The Connecticut George Washington State Bicentennial Commission, under the astute leadership of the then State Librarian, George S. Godard, coaxed participation from a large number of cities and towns, engaged in interstate celebrations, national tree planting, a failed attempt at the creation of a George Washington Bicentennial Highway, national oratorical and essay contests, and the creation of several educational publications.
Participation on the city and town level was unimaginable with an astounding creation of 1,150 town and city committees, 1,432 church committees, 894 fraternal and patriotic committees, 1,658 school committees, 830 agricultural committees, and 1,670 boy and girl scout committees just to name a few. All of these committees put together an incredible 48,258 programs statewide with 91,950 news items appearing in Connecticut newspapers and 169,000 pieces of literature mailed.4
The official celebration in Connecticut took place on Tuesday, June 7, 1932 in the form of three parades that proceeded through Middletown, Wethersfield and Hartford. The parades consisted of military troops and bands, state police, women's organizations, boy scouts, girl scouts, public and parochial school children, veteran organizations, fraternal organizations, fire departments, and floats. Following the parades a luncheon was hosted by the Massachusetts George Washington Bicentennial Commission, which was attended by Governor Wilbur Cross, his official party, the Connecticut George Washington Bicentennial Commission, and other important public figures and dignitaries, in honor of George Washington's birth.5 The governor and his company proceeded to partake in the festivities in Massachusetts the following day. The end of the parades marked the conclusion of the official Connecticut George Washington Bicentennial Celebration.
1 William M. Ferraro, "The AHA and the George Washington Bicentennial in 1932," Perspectives on History (October 2009).
2 Richard V. Oulahan, "Coolidge depicts Washington as a man; heard by millions," New York Times, February 23, 1927 , p. 1.
3 Karal Ann Marling, George Washington Slept Here, (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1998), 327.
4 United States George Washington Bicentennial Commission, History of the George Washington Bicentennial Celebration, (Washington D.C.: United States George Washington Bicentennial Commission, 1932).
5 Minutes, 1932, box 1, folder 2, George Washington Bicentennial Commission Records, RG055, Connecticut State Library.
The records were arranged into nine series which document the George Washington Bicentennial Commission. The series include minutes, correspondence, general files, press files, children's contest entries, photographs, History of the George Washington Bicentennial Celebration: Programs of Participation in Connecticut, scrapbooks, and artifacts.
Series 1. Minutes, 1931-1932, consist of minutes from the Connecticut George Washington Bicentennial Commission's meetings.
Series 2. Correspondence, 1931-1932, contains the correspondence between the former state librarian and secretary of the Connecticut George Washington Bicentennial Commission, George S. Goddard and other individuals dealing with the bicentennial celebration. The miscellaneous folder contains correspondence, school bulletins, information about the George Washington Bicentennial Highway, information on Washington's trip, clippings, and correspondence about the Washington Atlas.
Series 3. General Files, 1931-1933, consist of the following topics: badges, town celebrations, certificates of merit, state and town commissions and committees, committee cooperation, Connecticut schools bulletin, contest committee, Daughters of the American Revolution, George Washington portraits, films, form letters, stickers, envelopes, interstate cooperation, medals, plaques, Lebanon war office and green, minutes of committee meetings, George Washington Bicentennial Highway, miscellaneous, Rochambeau- Washington Dinner, speeches, State Highway Department, and tree planting. The miscellaneous folder includes invitations, town celebration programs, letters, George Washington Bicentennial airplane flight postcard, Washington ball, bills, correspondence of the Connecticut Foot Guard, and a George Washington marker sketch.
Series 4. Press Files, 1932, contains newspaper clippings which cover various bicentennial events around Connecticut.
Series 5. Children's Contest Entries, 1932, includes essays, poems, scrapbooks, drawings, and music created by Connecticut school children. All of the contest entries have a connection with George Washington and the bicentennial celebration.
Series 6. Photographs, 1932, contain images of the Lebanon, Connecticut celebration, Governor Trumbull's War Office, commemorative markers, and speeches.
Series 7. History of the George Washington Bicentennial Celebration: Programs of Participation in Connecticut, 1932, is a publication of Connecticut's participation in the National George Washington Bicentennial Celebration. The publication consists of many Connecticut George Washington Bicentennial Commission records and newspaper clippings.
Series 8. Scrapbooks, 1932, Contains a scrapbook of the Daughters of the American Revolution Celebrations of the Washington Bicentennial.
Series 9. Artifacts, 1932, include music, bicentennial rubber stamps, coins, ribbons, and etched glass created by Connecticut school children and submitted with the contest entries.
Series 1. Minutes, 1931-1932
Series 2. Correspondence, 1931-1933
Series 3. General Files, 1931-1933
Series 4. Press Files, 1932
Series 5. Children's contest entries, 1932
Series 6. Photographs, 1932
Series 7. History of the George Washington Bicentennial Celebration: Programs of Participation in Connecticut, 1932.
Series 8. Scrapbooks, 1932
Series 9. Artifacts, 1932
Restrictions on Access
These records are stored at an off-site facility and therefore may not be available on a same-day basis.
Restrictions on Use
See the Reproduction and Publications of State Library Collections policy.
RG 005:026, Wilbur L. Cross Gubernatorial Records, box 381, George Washington 200th Anniversary Celebration, Connecticut State Library.
One of the items in this record group was a sealed wooden chest with metal plaque marked, "George Washington Bicentennial - Durham and Wallingford. To be opened 1982." Early that year, Ted Wohlsen, Unit Head of Archives, History and Genealogy, opened the chest and added a note to the register, "Returned to Town of Durham 3-3-82." A letter in the record group file notes that the Committee of Presentation representing the Towns of Durham and Wallingford gave the State Library the chest on June 15, 1933. Wohlsen "returned" the chest to the town clerk "to assist in the preparations for your celebrations."
Connecticut. George Washington Bicentennial Commission
Godard, George S. (George Seymour), 1865-1936
Spencer, Samuel R.
Connecticut. George Washington Bicentennial Commission -- Records and correspondence
Washington, George, 1732-1799 -- Anniversaries, etc
George Godard kept and transferred the records in accession: T002715. The scrapbook in accession: SL208691, was presented to the Connecticut State Library by Maud Sterling Brusie, D.A.R. State Historian, on May 15, 1934.
Michael Forino processed the records in January-March, 2011 (Allen Ramsey supervised).