Ah… Memorial Day Weekend. What for many of us marks the first official weekend of Summer – this year a particularly socially distanced Summer – is frequently forgotten as marking a day of solemn remembrance, observed since 1868 but not officially recognized as a federal holiday until 1971. When we think about those who have died in the wars fought by the United States Armed Services, one of them is often left out: The American Revolution!
Our first and possibly one of our most radical achievements as a country, revolution against the British Empire was pretty radical at a time when such anarchy existed only in the tales of old. Following the famed battle at Lexington and Concord, from 1775 - 1783 the American Revolution cost 6,800 American lives in combat, atop an estimated 17,000 more lost from disease. Our young nation faced huge losses, but persisted nonetheless.
In honor of the birth of our nation by the Declaration of Independence in 1776, the U.S celebrated its birth twice – The Centennial in 1876, and again in 1976, our Bicentennial. With the country’s anniversary came trends in interior design, home decor, and furniture reflecting that celebration – some revival pieces cheesier than others. Today, we present you with the brief history of Centennial and Bicentennial designs that took American homes by ambush (yes, Revolutionary War pun intended).
Victorian revival of “colonial” styles
Perhaps most markedly noted by the 1876 Centennial Exposition held in Philadelphia, featuring 200 buildings and receiving 10 million visitors, it feels safe to say that America was excited about its 100th Birthday.
The Early American design philosophy honored the hard-working pilgrims, farmers, and pioneers in their log cabins and farmhouses. With this came a level of informality that included delicately striped Colonial wallpaper, lightly painted or stained heavy wood furniture like tavern tables or Windsor Chairs, alongside candlesticks, books, and other accessories to finish off the look. Combined, these elements worked to
achieve a look of affordability, simplicity, and ease of use.
Meanwhile, 18th Century Colonial looked to embrace a more “stately” approach to early America. Utilizing the symmetrical style seen in homes of the Founding Father elites, these home exteriors were defined by red bricks, white shutters, and even Neoclassical Columns. Inside, walls were painted white, and furniture included a combination of elegant, scrolling Georgian and Neoclassical upholstered wood furnishings, along with more “classy” accessories such as gold-trimmed mirrors.
Post-World War II revivalism
After the war, young families in search of “tradition” eagerly embraced updated versions of 18th Century Colonial and Early American Style. The style remained relatively stagnant until the 1960s and 70s; when the Bicentennial approached, marketers began to reimagine the “Early American” style, including reproductions of the Victorian reproductions, further abstracting it from true Colonial design.
The United States Bicentennial in 1976 prompted an explosion in all things Americana, including a revamping of Early American and Colonial home furnishings. The most outrageous of these products are known as “Bicentennial Chic”, and came in colors of the American flag and featured overt American Symbolism. Most famous of these symbols was the American Bald Eagle. Everything from couch fabrics, plate design, wall decor, side tables, jewelry, rugs, and cups prominently featured Bald Eagles in celebration of the Big two-zero-zero.
Over the years we have seen all of the above, and even today, the Bald Eagle sells. Whether it be the majesty of the flying giant itself, the sentiment of Patriotism, or the whiff of nostalgia that the icon gives us, these feathery friends never seem to go completely out of style. While we aren’t celebrating our country’s tricentennial any time soon, these Eagle-laden pieces are perfect accents for rooms featuring other dark woods or other American-memorabilia. They’re also great if you like birds!
See our Instagram posts here and here for more info, and send us a message if you're interested! To all of our customers and readers, thank you for visiting our Blog, and enjoy a restful and healthy holiday weekend! For those who we’ve lost in the Armed Forces, you' are in our prayers.
Until Next Week,
Helaina (and the rest of us at Yesterday’s News)