July 4, 1951: Celebrating America’s Demisemiseptcentennial

As we look forward to the upcoming 250th anniversary of our nation in 2026, we’re looking back at the 175th anniversary celebration in 1951. For more information on July 4 and the National Archives, visit our website

On July 4, 1951, the United States celebrated its demisemiseptcentennial—the 175th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence. Unlike more modern independence day celebrations, that day was very different for the National Archives. 

For one, we didn’t yet have the Declaration of Independence itself because in 1951 it was still on display at the Library of Congress. It didn’t come to the National Archives until the end of 1952

But that didn’t mean the National Archives had nothing to celebrate. The agency had several other related documents, which they featured in a Declaration of Independence–themed exhibit. The exhibit included documents related to the union of the 13 colonies, the Lee Resolution, and the Stone engraving plate

In the early 1820s, Secretary of State John Quincy Adams tasked printer William J. Stone to make a full-size facsimile copperplate engraving of the Declaration of Independence. Stone used the copperplate to make 200 copies of Declaration on parchment for the State Department. The plate itself eventually made its way to there too and was sent to the National Archives when the Department of State transferred its historic records in the 1930s.

For the 175th anniversary, the National Archives reproduced a full-size facsimile of the Declaration based on the Stone Engraving. Selling for 30 cents, it was reproduced on heavy bond paper, measured 28 x 34 inches, and was suitable for framing.

The evening of July 4th included a major celebration on the grounds of the Washington Monument with an estimated crowd of 175,000. Local radio personality Eddie Gallaher served as master of ceremonies.

The celebration began with music by the Marine Band and the Navy School of Music Band, followed by a color guard. Performances included the Billy Williams Quartet, a 175-voice choir, the vaudeville roller “Skating Macks,” a rendition of patriotic “Ballad for Americans,” and a scene from “Faith of our Fathers” depicting the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

At 9:30 p.m., President Harry Truman gave a speech that was broadcast to the nation. In it, he compared the vision of the Declaration of Independence to that of the newly created United Nations, and similar to the Crown back in 1776, the Soviet Union was now trying to destroy freedom, equality, and self-government.

“But,” Truman stated, “the American people are not afraid. We have taken our stand beside other free men, because we have known for 175 years that free men must stand together. We have joined in the defense of freedom without hesitation and without fear, because we have known for 175 years that freedom must be defended.”

The audio of Truman’s speech is available online in our National Archives Catalog.

After the President’s speech, the evening capped off with what was dubbed as the biggest Fourth of July fireworks ever. 

In anticipation of the Semiquincentennial (250th anniversary) of the Declaration of Independence in 2026, the National Archives is amping up our annual July 4th celebrations. Visit the National Archives website to learn more about how to celebrate with us in Washington, DC, at one of our nationwide facilities, or virtually.

One thought on “July 4, 1951: Celebrating America’s Demisemiseptcentennial

  1. who knew there was a word “demisemiseptcentennial”???
    all I have to do now is learn how to pronounce it!
    Happy 4th! keep those surprises coming!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *