$200 ‘Spirit of ’76’ painting may yield big payday
PORT ST. JOE — It is probably the most famous painting in American history: “The Spirit of ’76.”
It shows two drummers and a fife player marching with a 13-star U.S. flag, saluting the spirit of the American Revolution. It was painted for the 1876 U.S. Centennial, by Archibald Willard, of Wellington, Ohio.
For more than a century, it’s been a wildly popular image, emblazoned on posters, products and patriotic pastimes. During the U.S. Bicentennial in 1976, it was used on a U.S. stamp. It ranks with the flagraising at Iwo Jima during World War II as the most iconic American images.
And for nearly 40 years, Jay Stevens kept his “Spirit of ’76” painting in a closet — thinking it was just a copy and unaware it was an original painting possibly worth more than $1 million.
“We’ve seen as many ‘Willards’ as anyone and we really believe it’s the real deal,” said Scott Markel, a trustee of the Spirit of ’76 Museum
Jay Stevens kept his patriotic painting in a closet for decades. It may be worth over $1 million.