Published May 1976 — Download PDF of the original newspaper column
Byrd's-Eye View By U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd Looking Back at 1876 In May, 1876, the Centennial Exposition opened in Philadelphia to celebrate America's first century as a Republic. During that summer, millions of Americans and foreigners from all around t h e w o r 1 d travelled to Philadelphia for the gigantic birthday party planned to be the grandest exposition the world had ever seen. Even after only 100 y e a r s o f independence, America was already recognized as a leader among nations. We were a young and diverse people, and were respected for our energy, foresight, and initiative. In 1876, America was hard at work, rebuilding the economy and healing the old wounds left over from the Civil War and the Reconstruction era. T h e hardy and the adventurous in the land were going West to carve out a nation from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Rather than looking back, people were optimistic and were talking anxiously about the future. A new machine age--which promised to ease everyone's burden and provide more goods and services- was just around the corner. Everyone who went to Philadelphia in the summer of 1876 wanted to see some of these new machines and gadgets. One of the biggest hits was a steam locomotive representing the railroads which had helped to open the West. Two unrelated events which also occurred in 1876 represented the watershed the country had reached after 100 years. Custer and his troops were massacred at the Little Bighorn in Montana, and Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone. America's westward expansion was about over and a new age of inventions and industry was beginning. Looking back, it is refreshing to see how much our ancestors had accomplished in their first century. And being a proud and dedicated people, they wanted the whole world to come to Philadelphia to celebrate their Centennial with them. And today, with America celebrating her Bicentennial, we have just as much to be proud of. After two world wars we helped out our allies and former enemies alike and rebuilt Europe and Japan. We have landed men on the moon and are leading the world in the all-important technological revolution. When our grandchildren and their children look back at us during their Tricentennial in 2076, I am sure they will be just as proud of us as we are of our ancestors.