Bicentennial Wagon Train Participants


Summary Description | Introduction | Series Descriptions | Container List | List of Wagon Train Stops


The collection documents the Asmus family’s participation on the Bicentennial Wagon Train, especially along the Santa Fe Trail.

1.6 linear feet (ca. 3200 pages)

Pauline Asmus (accession number 2003-01)


Pauline Asmus donated to the United States of America her copyrights in all of her unpublished writings in National Archives collections. The copyrights to materials written by other individuals or organizations are presumed to remain with them. Works prepared by U.S. Government employees as part of their official duties are in the public domain.

Prepared by Brooke Clement, February 2004
[s:\bin\findaid\asmus, larry & pauline - papers.doc]


In 1975, as the Bicentennial of the American Revolution neared, people began planning a bevy of events to mark the occasion. One such event was the Bicentennial Wagon Train Pilgrimage. The plan was to have covered wagons embark from each state, travel along the well-known trails (Santa Fe Trail, Oregon Trail, Appalachian Trail, etc.) of their ancestors, and converge together at the Valley Forge National Historic Park to celebrate on July 4, 1976. Pennsylvania bought and gave a wagon to each state/state governor to use as the official state wagon and underwrote the project. Private wagons were welcome to join. Encyclopedia Britannica produced scrolls to be carried from town to town by the wagons, where residents could sign vowing their “rededication to the principles of the Declaration of Independence.”

Azusa, California residents Larry (AKA Gabbie) and Pauline Asmus had become actively involved in their suburban community’s Bicentennial programs. While attending California’s State Bicentennial Conference, Mr. Asmus volunteered to be a part of the Wagon Train. When California’s interest, and funding, waned in the months leading up to the trip, the Asmus family, opted to take over, and Mr. Asmus became the Wagon Train Manager. Seeing the trip as a once-in-a-lifetime event, Mr. and Mrs. Asmus took their youngest children (Renee, Christina, and Paul; eldest daughter Ramona did not go on the trip) out of school, and set out on the Santa Fe Trail January 1, 1976 from Pasadena.

Well-planned and scheduled, the Santa Fe Trail Wagon Train traveled around 20 miles per day, and stopped at predetermined destinations where they were welcomed with (and provided) entertainment and parades provided by their host cities/towns. As they moved through each state along their path, more wagons (including official state wagons) joined. On the 183rd day of their journey, the wagon trains united at Valley Forge, and prepared for the celebration the following day, which included a visit from President Gerald R. Ford. (For a semi-complete list of each stop, see the appendix attached at the end of this finding aid.)

Following the trip, and their return to Azusa, the Asmus family found that their vision of life had so altered that they could not readjust to suburbia. Leaving their home in Azusa, the family relocated to a small logging community 50 miles north of Lake Tahoe, Westwood, California.

The Larry and Pauline Asmus papers document their participation in the Santa Fe Trail Wagon Train through articles written by Mrs. Asmus, and accounts written by friends and other participants in the Wagon Train. A significant portion of this collection is dedicated to clippings from local newspapers en route to Valley Forge, which Library staff made preservation copies of, and remained faithful to Mrs. Asmus’ arrangement. Souvenirs collected by the Asmus family over the course of the trip are also included, along with three hardcover books (two of local areas visited by the Train; one a yearbook of the Wagon Train). In addition, correspondence (official and unofficial), programs/pamphlets, and unused scrolls and certificates complete this collection.

Some donated items have been transferred to other areas of the Library, as well as to the Ford Museum in Grand Rapids. Photographs, along with a video, were placed in the Library’s audiovisual holdings. A complete inventory of transferred audiovisual materials, together with about 72 photocopied snapshots including Mrs. Asmus’ accounts, can be found in the “Transferred to AV” folder in this collection. and placed in the “Audiovisual Materials” folder of this collection. A listing, with descriptions, of three dimensional souvenirs and artifacts transferred to the Museum can be found in the “Transferred to Museum” folder of this collection.

Related Materials (February 2004)
Related open materials on the Bicentennial Wagon Train and the celebration that took place July Fourth in Valley Forge, PA, can be found in: the files of Milton E. Mitler (White House Coordinator of Bicentennial Matters); files and/or papers of Robert T. Hartmann (Counselor to the President); files of Gerald L. Warren and Margita E. White (White House Communications Staff); files of John O. Marsh (Counselor to the President); files of Gwen A. Anderson (Assistant to White House Counselors Dean Burch and Robert Hartmann); Presidential Speeches and Statements (Reading Copies); files of Paul Theis and Robert Orben (Editorial and Speechwriting Staff); files of Sheila R. Weidenfeld (First Lady’s Staff); and files of Eric Rosenberger and Douglass Blaser (White House Press Secretary’s Staff).

Related open materials on the Bicentennial can be found especially in: files of Andre Buckles and Stephen McConahey (Domestic Counsel Staff); and White House Central Files categories FG 75 American Revolution Bicentennial Commission, FG 370 American Revolution Bicentennial Administration, GI 3 Gifts to President (includes Bicentennial) and PR 8-1 American Bicentennial Celebration.


Subject File, 1975-1977.  (Boxes 1-4, 1.6 linear feet)
Memoranda, maps, schedules, souvenirs, and correspondence collected by Larry and Pauline Asmus before, during, and following their participation on the Bicentennial Wagon Train Pilgrimage to Valley Forge, Pennsylvania in 1976. A sizable portion of this series is made up of clippings and periodicals from a variety of news sources, especially local newspapers en route.

Arranged alphabetically by subject and chronologically thereunder.

View container list for this series

Audiovisual Materials, 1975-1977. 
Primarily photographs documenting the Asmus family's participation on the Bicentennial Wagon Train, especially along the Santa Fe Trail. The "Scrapbook" subseries of photographs were removed from the Asmus family’s scrapbook, which still contains textual material such as newspaper clippings and itineraries from the trip. Some artifacts were removed from the scrapbook and transferred to the Ford Presidential Museum. Also included are a collection of lithographs of presidential portraits, and a VHS tape of home video taken on the Bicentennial Wagon Train.

View container list for this series


Box 1 - Subject File

Box 2 - Subject File

Box 3 - Subject File

Box 4 - Subject File

List of Wagon Train Stops