There has been much comment about the crass and exploitative marketing ideas that have been spewing out upon us since the beginning of our bicentennial celebrations, but credit for the most vigorous and unusual protest must go to Luckenbach, Texas.
Luckenbach is a very small town sixty miles northwest of San Antonio. It was founded in 1850 as an Indian trading post and today consists of a saloon, a dance hall, and a general store. Some revenue is generated by a single parking meter. Three people live there. Nevertheless, last February 29 a crowd of five to six thousand converged on Luckenbach to take part in the Non Buy-Centennial Awards Day, when handsomely engraved certificates were distributed “for singular achievement in bad taste by abusing the spirit of the U.S. Bicentennial.”
There were, of course, a great many contenders for this honor. Among those selected by contest judge Jack Harmon were a red, white, and blue prophylactic and a product that seemed somehow to hark back to the spirit of the 1876 Centennial—a red, white, and blue manure spreader manufactured by the New Idea Farm Equipment Company of Coldwater, Ohio.
The N.F.L. was cited for its $25,000 bicentennial essay contest, which called for expositions on “The National Football League’s Role in American History.” (Henry Steele Commager has made a laconic evaluation: “It has no importance whatsoever.”)
The Non Buy-Centennial City was Omaha, where a budget car-rental agency was opened amid bicentennial ceremonies and a bicentennial buyer’s guide to the Omaha home market has been published.
Two products tied for second place: the Falstaff Brewing Company’s bicentennial beer cans and the Jackson Casket Company’s red, white, and blue coffin. (At least two other concerns are manufacturing the latter item, and one of them, the Jacwill Casket Company of Nightstown, Indiana, is receiving three hundred orders a day.)
But first prize was easily taken by the Midwest Breeder’s Cooperative of Shawano, Wisconsin, for its Bicentennial Semen Sale. An advertisement for its product featured a portrait of George Washington and offered seven quarts of bull semen for the price of six.