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Declaration of Independence

  Last updated November 22, 2006.  Unless stating the date, events within the year may not be in order.

Path to Independence
1773   -   1774   -   1775   -   1776

The Declaration Of Independence
-   1776   -   July 4th, 1776   -   1777   -

Continued History                                      Links         

1778 - 1783 - 1785 - 1789 - 1790
1800 - 1802 - 1814 - 1820 - 1823 - 1824 - 1841 - 1848 - 1876 - 1877 - 1883 - 1894
1903 - 1921 - 1924 - 1941 - 1943 - 1944 - 1952 - 1982 - 1987 - 1989 - 1991 - 1995
2000 - 2003 - 2004 - 2006

© 2006 Roger W Hancock

The Path to Independence

1215 ~ The Magna Carta, written in 1215 attempted to appeal to King John of England to grant certain rights to the people.  The Magna Carta is considered by some to be the cornerstone of liberty and the basis on which later documents would be written.
1773 Spring "Nothing of particular excitement occurring for a considerable time our countrymen seemed to fall into a state of insensibility to our situation. The duty on tea not yet repealed & the Declaratory act of a right in the British parliament to bind us by their laws in all cases whatsoever, still suspended over us. But a court of inquiry held in R. Island in 1762(*), with a power to send persons to England to be tried for offences committed here was considered at our session of the spring of 1773 as demanding attention. Not thinking our old & leading members up to the point of forwardness & zeal which the times required, Mr. Henry, R. H. Lee, Francis L. Lee, Mr. Carr & myself agreed to meet in the evening in a private room [the Apollo room, pictured below] of the Raleigh to consult on the state of things."
 - Thomas Jefferson's Account of the Declaration of Independence.
      * Although Jefferson stated "1762," it was most likely "1772" that he meant.
1774 Spring "The next event which excited our sympathies for Massachusetts was the Boston port bill, by which that port was to be shut up on the 1st of June, 1774. This arrived while we were in session in the spring of that year.
 - Thomas Jefferson's Account of the Declaration of Independence.
1775 May The Second Continental Congress convenes in May with no response from King George III to the petition of redress of grievances that the first Continental Congress sent to him. The second Continental Congress begins to take on responsibilities emerging as a like simile to a national Government, during May of 1775. The Congress established the Continental Army and a continental currency.  A Post Office for the United Colonies was established towards the end of 1775.
1775 August King George III in August, 1775, issues a royal proclamation that the "King's American subjects" were "engaged in open and avowed rebellion." Later that year the British Parliament passed the American Prohibitory Act. The act declares all American vessels and cargoes forfeit to the crown.
1776 January In January 1776, selling by the thousands, Thomas Paine's Common Sense was published.
1776 March Passing the Congress in March, 1776 the Privateering Resolution, gave the permission to the colonist to arm vessels to patrol and defend against the enemies of these United Colonies."
1776 April 6th Congress severed economic ties with Britain on April 6, 1776, by opening American ports to commerce with other nations in response to the King's Navigation Acts.
1776 April 12th North Carolina's delegates are authorized to vote for independence by the Provincial Congress of North Carolina on April 12, 1776.
1776 May "With the help therefore of Rushworth [*], whom we rummaged over for the revolutionary precedents & forms of the Puritans of that day, preserved by him, we cooked up a resolution, somewhat modernizing their phrases, for appointing the 1st day of June, on which the Port bill was to commence, for a day of fasting, humiliation & prayer, to implore heaven to avert from us the evils of civil war, to inspire us with firmness in support of our rights, and to turn the hearts of the King & parliament to moderation & justice."
 - Thomas Jefferson's Account of the Declaration of Independence.
      *a popular book, John Rushworth's Historical Collections
1776 May Congress learns in May, 1776 that the Crown had negotiated treaties with various German states to commission mercenaries to fight in America. Many in colonial Americans became convinced that England is treating the colonies as though it were a foreign country.
1776 May 10 The Continental Congress passes the "Resolution for the Formation of Local Governments" on May 10, 1776.
1776 Mid May Eight colonies had decided to support Independence, by the middle of May, 1776.
1776 May 15 On May 15, 1776 the Virginia Convention directed their delegates in Congress to propose that the body declare independence from England and to appoint a committee to prepare a declaration and plan of government.
The Declaration Of Independence
1776 June 7th The Continental Congress held session in the Pennsylvania State House which later became Independence Hall.  In the session Richard Henry Lee brought to the floor of the Continental Congress of the United Colonies, on June 7, 1776, the resolution, ``Resolved, That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.''
1776 June 8th Richard Henry Lee's resolution for independence was sent to the committee of the whole (the entire congress) the day after the original motion.
1776 June 9th Most of Saturday, June 9th, 1776 was spent debating the resolution and idea of independence. The debate continued on Monday, June 10th.
1776 June 10th The whole Congress spent much of a second day, June 10, 1776, deliberating the resolution on independence. Pennsylvania, New York and South Carolina expressed the primary oppositions. Thomas Jefferson in his observation stated, "It appearing in the course of these debates that the colonies of N. York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, and South Carolina were not yet matured for falling from the parent stem." then believing that more time is needed, to debate the issue, said, "to give an opportunity to the delegates from those colonies which had not yet given authority to adopt this decisive measure, to consult their constituents .. and in the meanwhile, that no time be lost, that a committee be appointed to prepare a declaration".
1776 June 11th The Lee Resolution is postponed by a vote of seven to five with New York abstaining. A Committee of Five is established to compose a declaration statement during the following three week recess. A Committee of Five was chosen on June 11th to draw up a declaration draft. Thomas Jefferson was unanimously voted as its first member. Also chosen was John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Robert R. Livingston, and Roger Sherman. In Thomas Paine's Common Sense he suggested a document to declare independence from Great Britain. It was that suggestion that originated the idea for a draft of such a document.  Jefferson was assigned, by the Committee of Five, the task of producing a first draft.
  June 11th The American Army retreats to Lake Champlain from the campaign in Canada.
1776 June 11th - 28th Thomas Jefferson took the following seventeen days writing the original draft. His research included George Mason's Virginia Declaration of Rights, passed on June 12, 1776, and Thomas Paine's Common Sense.
Thomas Jefferson first presented his "fair" draft to Benjamin Franklin and John Adams for their considerations and amendments prior to the presentation of a "rough draught" to the committee of five. Jefferson's reasoning was, "… because they were the two members of whose judgments and amendments I wished most to have the benefit before presenting it to the Committee." Adams and Franklin had made only a few changes.
1776 June 28th The amended draft was presented to Congress by the Committee of Five and was read on Friday, June 28, 1776. Historian John C. Fitzpatrick, described the first draft as that the declaration's, "...genesis roughly speaking, is the first three sections of George Mason's immortal composition (Virginia Declaration of Rights), Thomas Jefferson's Preamble to the Virginia Constitution, and Richard Henry Lee's resolution..."
1776 July 1st On Monday, July 1st, 9am Congress was called to order. Most of the hot and humid day concentrated on discussion for or against independence. Pennsylvania and South Carolina delegations as well as the delegation from Delaware were split on the issue. New York was allowed to abstain by absence.
On Monday, the 1st of July the house resolved itself into a committee of the whole & resumed the consideration of the original motion made by the delegates of Virginia, which being again debated through the day, was carried in the affirmative by the votes of N. Hampshire, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, N. Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, N. Carolina, & Georgia. S. Carolina and Pennsylvania voted against it. Delaware having but two members present, they were divided. The delegates for New York declared they were for it themselves & were assured their constituents were for it, but that their instructions having been drawn near a twelvemonth before, when reconciliation was still the general object, they were enjoined by them to do nothing which should impede that object. They therefore thought themselves not justifiable in voting on either side, and asked leave to withdraw from the question, which was given them." - Thomas Jefferson's Account of the Declaration of Independence.
The resolution for Independence would not yet be adopted. Debate was postponed until Tuesday, the next day.
1776 July 2nd July 2, 1776 saw substantial movement towards the adoption of Independence. Robert Morris and John Dickinson deliberately abstained from the vote, by their absence. The remaining members of the Pennsylvania delegation voted in favor of the resolution. Arthur Middleton, representing South Carolina during his father's (Henry Middleton) absence and against his wishes, voted with his delegation in favor of Independence. The Delaware 1 to 1 deadlock was broken to favor the resolution by the arrival of Caesar Rodney who ailing of cancer rode the whole night of rain and storm to cast the final vote of approval that passed the resolution. The resolution for Independence passes by approval of 12 colonies with New York the only hold out.
The Association of the United Colonies of America by their unified vote becomes the United States of America.
  July 2nd The British Army transported by the British fleet arrive at New York on July 2nd.
1776 July 3rd Debates over the language of the Declaration of Independence as presented by the Committee of Five carried on over July 3rd and 4th, 1776.
Link:  Jefferson's notes on Debates
1776 July 3rd John Adams had thought July 2nd would be the date celebrated by generations to come as he expressed in a letter to Abigail Adams, his wife, on July 3, 1776, "The Second Day of July 1776 will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. . . . It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires, and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more."


July 4th The debate on the language of the Declaration of Independence continued into July 4th, 1776 altering the document coming to a final approval. 12 of the 13 delegations, New York still holding out, came to an agreement late in the afternoon on July 4th to declare themselves independent nations. New York's delegates were required by their legislature to abstain from voting or signing any documented instrument of independence.
Thomas Jefferson expressed his disappointment by writing:  "The pusillanimous idea that we had friends in England worth keeping terms with, still haunted the minds of many.  For this reason those passages which conveyed censure on the people of England were struck out, lest they should give them offense. The clause too, reprobating the enslaving the inhabitants of Africa, was struck out in compliance to South Carolina and Georgia, who had never attempted to restrain the importation of slaves, and who on the contrary still wished to continue it. Our Northern brethren also I believe felt a little tender under these censures; for tho' their people have very few slaves themselves yet they had been pretty considerable carriers of them to others."
Thomas Jefferson is justly considered the primary author of the Declaration of Independence.
In the evening of July 4, 1776 the Congress, presided over by John Hancock, ordered:  “That the declaration be authenticated and printed That the committee appointed to prepare the declaration superintend and correct the press. That the copies of the declaration be sent to the several assemblies, conventions and committees, or councils of safety, and to the several commanding officers of the con­tinental troops, and that it be proclaimed in each of the United States, and at the head of the army.” Many of the colonialists were unable to afford a newspaper, so the Congress did not leave it to the press to disseminate the consideration of declaring independence.
Only President John Hancock and Secretary Charles Thomson signed the final working copy of the Declaration on the evening of July 4th to lay their authority to the document. Upon his signing, John Hancock commented, "The British ministry can read that name without spectacles; let them double their reward."
With the official adoption of the Declaration of Independence, church bells rang out across Philadelphia, PA.
Declaration of Independence as amended by Congress
Thomas Jefferson Papers at the Library of Congress  -  Jefferson's rough draft
1776 Five distinct parts The composition of the Declaration of Independence consists of five distinct parts. The First is the introduction that declares the causes. The second part, the preamble, states the principles that were previously recognized as "self-evident". The body of the document has two parts with the first giving evidence of a pattern of abuse and usurpations. The second part of the body reiterates the appeals to the Crown, without avail. Then the conclusion clearly and succinctly declares independence and severing all ties to England.
1776 July 4th
As ordered by the resolution, to set the document to press, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania printer John Dunlap was commissioned to print the copies of the agreed to declaration.
 The copies were "signed" in type only. The attending delegates did not sign the approved document on July 4th. It is believed that John Dunlap printed 200 Broadsides the evening of July 4th, 1776.
1776 July 5th The 200 copies of the Declaration of Independence were delivered to Congress on July 5th, 1776.
John Hancock sent a copy from the first printing of the Declaration of Independence to the Committee of Safety of Pennsylvania, another to the Convention of New Jersey, and yet another to Colonel Haslet, of Delaware, instructing him to read it at the head of his battalion. John Adams sent a copy to a friend.  Elbridge Gerry sent copies to two friends; General Warren and Major Hawley.
Only two of these broadsides with the signatures of John Hancock and Charles Thomson were sent to King George III.
1776 July 5th A copy of the Declaration of Independence is sent to the King of England. Contrary to legend, the King did not receive a copy signed by John Hancock that could be read without his spectacles.
1776 July 6th President John Hancock hoping for a swift and unanimous consent for independence from all thirteen colonies sent one of Dunlap's  Broadsides to the New York Provincial Congress on Saturday, July 6th, 1776.
1776 July 6th The Pennsylvania Evening Post is the first paper to print the Declaration of Independence on July 6th.
1776 July 6th
- Cist & Steiner
German printers Cist and Steiner produced a plain laid paper German version broadside of the Declaration of Independence on June 9th, 1776. This copy is held in the archives of Gettysburg College.
1776 July 8th The Declaration of Independence is read in the first two public readings on June 8th, 1776. John Nixon read the Declaration at Independence Square in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. A second reading occured the same day in Trenton, N.J.
1776 July 9th John Jay rushed from New York City to preside over the New York Provincial Congress on July 9th, 1776. In session at the Court House in White Plains the New York Provincial Congress adopted the following resolution: "That reasons assigned by the Continental Congress for declaring The United Colonies Free and Independent States are cogent and conclusive, and that now we approve the same, and will at the risque of our lives and fortunes, join with the other colonies in supporting it."
1776 July 9th General George Washington orders the reading of the Declaration of Independence before the American Army in New York.
Links: George Washington Papers
General Orders for July 9, 1776  -  Washington's printed copy
1776 July 9th
- Millers
Philadelphia printer, Henrich Millers published a German Newspaper called the Pennsylvanisher staatsbote. Printed on the front page on July 9th was a complete German translation of the American Declaration of Independence. Millers' paper reported: "Yesterday at noon, the Declaration of Independence, which is published on this news paper's front page, was publicly proclaimed in English from an elevated platform in t he courtyard of the State House. Thereby the United Colonies of North America were absolved from all previously pledged allegiance to the king of Great Britain, they are and henceforth will be totally free and independent. The proclamation was read by Colonel Nixon, sheriff Dewees stood by his side and many members of the Congress, of the [Pennsylvania] Assembly, generals and other high army officers were also pres­ent. Several thousand people were in the courtyard to witness the solemn occasion. After the reading of the Declaration there were three cheers and the cry: God bless the free states of North America! To this every true friend of these colonies can only say, Amen. "
    Pennsylvania Gazette publishes the Declaration on 10 July
    theMaryland Gazette publishes the Declaration on 11 July
1776 July 15th The New York Resolution was brought before the Continental Congress on July 15th, 1776. It was only then that it was proper to place the title as "The Unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen States of America."
1776 July 19th After learning of the New York Resolution in support of independence, on July 19, 1776, the Continental Congress resolved that the Declaration of Independence be, "fairly engrossed on parchment, with the title and stile [sic] of 'The unanimous decla­ration of the thirteen United States of America,' and that the same, when engrossed, be signed by every member of Congress."
1776 July 19th Timothy Matlack, who had written out George Washington's commission, assisted Charles Thomson, the Secretary of the Congress, prepare an official engrossed document (engrossed means in large clear handwriting).
1776 Aug. 2nd The August 2nd entry in the journal of the Continental Congress is recorded: "The declaration of independence being engrossed and compared at the table was signed." The parchment was measured at 24 1/4 by 29 3/4 inches. John Hancock, being president, signed first using the now famous bold signature centered below the text, contrary to the custom of signing to the right. The others, in attendance on August 2nd, 1776, signed to the right arranged in order of their state's geographical positions beginning with the northern state of Maine ending with the most southern state of Georgia. Others signed later. Elbridge Gerry, Oliver Wolcott, Lewis Morris and Thomas Mc Kean were among the late signers. Matthew Thornton also signed late finding no room to sign with his delegation. Although the July 19th resolution ordered that, "when engrossed, be signed by every member of Congress." a few who were not able to return in time to sign. John Dickinson did not sign still subscribing to the possibility of reconciliation with Britain. Robert R Livingston on of the Committee of Five refused to sign believing the Declaration to be too soon. Eventually 56 delegates of the Continental Congress signed the Declaration of Independence.
1776 Aug. 2nd After being forced to retreat at Charleston, South Carolina a British reinforcement arrives at New York on August 2nd, 1776.
1776 Location It is likely that the Declaration of Independence was filed in the office of the Secretary, Charles Thomson in Philadelphia, PA after the signing ceremony on August 2, 1776.
1776 Dec. 20th

Due to the numerous British victories the Continental Congress fled to Baltimore, Maryland and reconvened on December 20, 1776. It is assumed that the Declaration of Independence was kept with the Continental Congress.
1777 Jan. 18th The Continental Congress led by John Hancock had ordered, on January 18th, 1777, a second official copy of the Declaration of Independence to be printed with the names of all the signers. Copies were to be sent to each State. The remaining signers of the declaration were kept secret until the victories of Trenton and Princeton bolstered the confidence and boldness of the Congress.
1777 Jan. 19th The Continental Congress on January 19, 1777 ordered that an official copy be sent to each of the United States.
1777 Jan. 19th Baltimore Postmaster, printer, and publisher Mary Katherine Goddard was commissioned to copy the original fully signed copy of the engrossed Declaration of Independence on January 19, 1777.
1777 March 4th

The Continental Congress remained in session from December 20, 1776 until March 4th, 1777.
The original signed engrossed copy remained in Baltimore with the Continental Congress until March, 1777.
1777 Location The Declaration of Independence would have been back in Philadelphia, PA from March to September, 1977, assuming it was kept with the Continental Congress.
1777 Location The Declaration of Independence would have moved with the Congress to Lancaster, PA for a single day, September, 1777.
1777 Location The Continental Congress moves to York, PA on September 30, 1777, with the Declaration of Independence being kept at the York courthouse until June 1778.
Continued History of the Declaration of Independence
1778 Location The Continental Congress moved back to Pennsylvania in July of 1778, the Declaration of Independence would be kept in Philadelphia until June, 1783.
1781 Signer Thomas McKean attaches his signature to the Declaration of Independence in 1781.
1783 Location Conducting sessions in Princeton, New Jersey from June to November, 1783 the Declaration of Independence would have accompanied the Congress.
1783 Location Congress moved to Annapolis, Maryland After the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1783 and would have had the Declaration of Independence there until October 1784.
1784 Location The Declaration of Independence would have been at Trenton, NJ from November to December, 1784.
1785 Location Congress convenes in New York, NY, in 1785 conducting session until 1790. The Declaration of Independence was kept at the old New York City Hall and may have been temporarily relocated during a remodel of the building by Pierre L'Enfant.
1789 Engrossed

The First Congress under the U.S. Constitution creates the Department of Foreign Affairs in July, 1789. Congress directed that the Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs was to have "custody and charge of all records, books, and papers," that had been kept by the same department prior to the reorganization of the government under the U.S. Constitution. Secretary Charles Thomson retired transferring the Declaration of Independence to the Deputy Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Roger Alden, on July 24, 1789. The name of the department was changed in September 1789 to the Department of State.
1790 Engrossed Upon his return from France, Thomas Jefferson assumes the duties of the first Secretary of State in March, 1790 which included custody of the Declaration of Independence. In July, 1790 Congress ordered the building of a permanent capital among the woodlands along the Potomac River.
1800 Engrossed

In 1800, President John Adams directs the Declaration and other government records to be moved to the new federal capital in the District of Columbia. The route taken to transport the Declaration and other records was by boat down the Delaware River into Delaware Bay and out to the Ocean to Chesapeake Bay then up the Potomac River to Washington, DC. The Declaration was kept at the new Treasury Department building for two months than the next year at one of the "Seven Buildings" at Nineteenth Street and Pennsylvania Avenue.
1802 Location From 1802 to 1814 the Declaration of Independence was housed in the old War Office on Seventeenth Street in Washington, DC.
1814 Engrossed

At war with Great Britain in August of 1814, Secretary of State James Monroe informs Stephen Pleasonton, a State Department clerk of the imminent threat to the capital city and official records. Pleasonton had the office staff pack the books, records, and the Declaration of Independence into bags made of coarse linen.  The day before the British attacked Washington, DC, August 24, 1814 the Government records including the Declaration was in route to Leesburg, Virginia. The Declaration of Independence was safe in a private home 35 miles away while the White House and other buildings burned that same evening.  The records remained in Leesburg, Virginia for several weeks and until the British troops and fleet had withdrawn from Washington and the Chesapeake Bay.
1814 Location The Declaration of Independence was returned to the nation's capital in September 1814 to be housed in three different buildings until 1841. It was observed that the last, a brick building, "offered no security against fire."
1820 Engrossed


- Stone
The only engrossed signed Declaration of Independence had been deteriorating at increasing rates. In 1820, then Secretary of State, John Quincy Adams commissioned the making of exact copies of the Declaration of Independence. Washington, DC's William J. Stone would use a new process, Wet-Ink Transfer. Although a copy was made, the Wet-Ink Transfer contributed to the deterioration of the Declaration, by now a national symbol.
The Wet-Ink Transfer required the document to be moistened then placed against a clean copper plate for transfer.
1823 Engrossed


- Stone
On June 4th, 1823 the National Intelligencer reported, "the City Gazette informs us that Mr. Wm. J. Stone, a respectable and enterprising (sic) engraver of this City has, after a labor of three years, completed a facsimile of the Original of the Declaration of Independence, now in the archives of the government, that it is executed with the greatest exactness and fidelity; and that the Department of State has become the purchaser of the plate. The facility of multiplying copies of it, now possessed by the Department of State will render furthur (sic) exposure of the original unnecessary."

- Stone -
Wet-Ink Plate
The United States Senate and House of Representatives on May 26th resolved: "That two hundred copies of the Declaration, now in the Department of State, be dis­tributed in the manner following: two copies to each of the surviving Signers of the Declaration of Independence (John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Charles Carroll of Carrollton); two copies to the President of the United States (Monroe); two copies to the Vice-President of the United States (Tompkins); two copies to the late President, Mr. Madison; two copies to the Marquis de Lafayette, twenty copies for the two hous­es of Congress; twelve copies for the different departments of the Government (State, Treasury, Justice, Navy, War and Postmaster); two copies for the President's House; two copies for the Supreme Court room, one copy to each of the Governors of the States; and one to each of the Governors of the Territories of the United States; and one copy to the Council of each Territory; and the remaining copies to the different Universities and Colleges of the United States, as the President of the United States may direct."

The 201 official parchment copies that were struck from the plate carried in the upper left corner the identification
"Engraved by W. J. Stone for the Department of State, by order" followed by "of J. Q. Adams, Sec. of State July 4th 1824."
The identification was burnished out and the engraving "W. J. Stone SC. Washn" was placed in the lower left for the subsequent unofficial copies.
1841 Location

On June 11, 1841, Secretary of State Daniel Webster ordered documents, usually on display to visitors, to be transferred to the Patent Office where suitable safe keeping and display, would be appropriate.  An inventory lists the Declaration of Independence as number 6.
The Declaration of Independence, mounted with George Washington's commission in the same frame, hung on exhibit opposite a window allowing exposure to sunlight. 35 years of exposure to the sun added greatly to the deterioration of the ink and parchment.
1848 - Stone -
Wet-Ink Plate
Congress, in 1848 commissions Peter Force to compile a series of books to be entitled "The American Archives." chronicling the Archives from 1774 to 1777, Key founding documents were to be included. Stone's Wet-Ink copper plate was removed from storage with the identification being altered to reflect the reprinting. Printed on rice paper from the Wet-Ink plate Peter Force printed in the neighborhood of 900 to 1200 copies. Rice Copies were folded and inserted into The American Archives, Volume One.
1876 Engrossed

With no action taken a resolution was introduced to create a commission to study restoration of the Declaration of independence.
1876 Engrossed

William J. Canby, a candidate for the restoration wrote on April 13, 1876, to the Librarian of Congress, "I have had over thirty years experience in handling the pen upon parchment and in that time, as an expert, have engrossed hundreds of ornamental, special documents." Canby continues suggesting, "the only feasible plan is to replenish the original with a supply of ink, which has been destroyed by the action of light and time, with an ink well known to be, for all practical purposes, imperishable."
1876 Engrossed

From May to October, 1876 the Declaration of Independence was on exhibit for the Centennial National Exposition in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Public Ledger of May 8, 1876 stated that it hung in Independence Hall and was "framed and glazed for protection, and …deposited in a fireproof safe especially designed for both preservation and convenient display."
1876 Engrossed

A joint resolution of both houses of congress, on August 3, 1876,
1877 Engrossed

Now the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, the new fireproof building of the State, War, and Navy Departments provided a location more safe than the previous as was proven by the fire that gutted the Patent Office just a few months later. The Declaration of Independence was displayed in a cabinet on the east side of the State Department Library where it would be on display for the next 17 years.
1883 Declaration
Thomas Jefferson had been uncomfortable with the lodging in the heart of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
The Home of Hyman and Simon Gratz on the outskirts of town (7th & Market Streets) was offered for rent to Jefferson. He rented two rooms on the second floor one was the bed chamber and the other used as a sitting room where Jefferson entertained other members of Congress.
The original house was demolished in 1883.  The National Park Service rebuilt a replica of the home in 1975 for the Bicentennial. The Independence Hall Association led efforts to rebuild Declaration House.
1894 Engrossed


From 1789 the original signed Declaration of Independence had been moved to various locations then displayed at the Patent Office Building and then the State Department Library. In 1894 the Declaration was pulled from display due to the rapid fading and deteriorating parchment.
1903 Engrossed

A report on the condition of the Declaration of Independence was released on April 24, 1903 by the National Academy of Sciences which summarized the physical history of the Declaration.
"The instrument has suffered very seriously from the very harsh treatment to which it was exposed in the early years of the Republic. Folding and rolling have creased the parchment. The wet press-copying operation to which it was exposed about 1820, for the purpose of producing a facsimile copy, removed a large portion of the ink. Subsequent exposure to the action of light for more than thirty years, while the instru­ment was placed on exhibition, has resulted in the fading of the ink, particularly in the signatures. The present method of caring for the instrument seems to be the best that can be suggested." -
National Academy of Sciences
1921 Engrossed

President Warren G. Harding issued an Executive Order that transfers custodianship of the Declaration of Independence to the Library of Congress on September 29, 1921.
1924 Engrossed


The Declaration of Independence was given some restoration and, as ordered in 1921, displayed in a specially constructed frame of gold-plated bronze doors and double panes of plate glass with specially prepared gelatin film placed between to reduce harmful rays from light. On February 28, 1924 the display was dedicated with the attendees being President Calvin Coolidge, Mrs. Coolidge, Secretary of State Charles Evans Hughes and other prominent guests. A 24 hour guard was assigned to the Declaration of Independence.
1933 Engrossed During the Great Depression in 1933, President Herbert Hoover placed the cornerstone of a building that was to the National Archives Building in Washington, DC. Designed specifically for the safety and display President Hover announced that the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution would eventually be placed in the exhibition hall of the new National Archives Building. On two walls of the exhibition hall were painted large murals; one where Thomas Jefferson presents the Declaration of Independence to President John Hancock and the other of James Madison presenting the U.S. Constitution to George Washington.
1941 Engrossed The Original signed Declaration of Independence was temporarily moved, after the attack on Pear Harbor, to Fort Knox, for safe keeping during World War II. The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were taken on December 23, 1941, and placed between two sheets of acid-free manila paper then wrapped in a container of all-rag neutral millboard then placed in another container made of bronze that was padlocked on each side and sealed with lead. On December 26 the records were taken to Louisville, Kentucky. The package was met by Secret Service and Cavalry troops of the 13th Armored Division assigned to the Fort Knox Bullion Depository.
1943 Engrossed On April 13, 1943 the Declaration of Independence was moved from Fort Knox and displayed in Washington, DC as the Thomas Jefferson Memorial dedication.
1944 Engrossed After all danger of enemy attack had passed the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were returned to the display at the Library of Congress. The doors reopened for viewing on Sunday, October 1, 1944, at 11:30 a.m.
1952 Engrossed The National Archives took permanent custodial ship of the Original Engrossed Copy of the Declaration of Independence in 1952. The Library of Congress ordered the transfer on April 30, 1952. The National Archives was the official depository of government records and just happened to be the most nearly bombproof building in Washington, DC. The Documents were transferred in a formal ceremony on December 15, 1952 with Wayne Grover, the Archivist of the United States, taking receipt.
President Harry S. Truman as the main speaker stated, “The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights are now assembled in one place for display and safekeeping. . . . We are engaged here today in a symbolic act. We are enshrining these documents for future ages. . . . This magnificent hall has been constructed to exhibit them, and the vault beneath, that we have built to protect them, is as safe from destruction as anything that the wit of modern man can devise. All this is an honorable effort, based upon reverence for the great past, and our generation can take just pride in it.”
1982 Dunlap

In 1982 the Colonial American Documents from the Chew Family Papers were published. Included is a copy of the "Dunlap Broadside" (Declaration of Independence) that was a part of the Chew Family Papers.  The copy of the "Dunlap Broadside" came to the Chew Family through Mary Chew the first wife of William Paca, a signer of the Declaration of Independence.
1987 Engrossed

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) installed a surveillance and computerized monitoring system in 1987. The Charters Monitoring System was designed to monitor the state of condition of the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights. The system detects any variation of the conditions such as readability, fading, flaking, etc. as well as document dimensions, even conditions that would evade the human eye. The system was designed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at a cost of Three Million Dollars ($3,000,000).
1989 1998 found
A Philadelphia, PA man browsing through a flea market in 1989 came upon a painting in which he was particularly interested in the frame and paid 4 dollars for the piece of art. During the process of removing the painting he found tucked among the backing an original unsigned Dunlap Broadside of the Declaration of Independence.
See 1991, 1995, 2000.
1991 1998 found
Visual Equities, a fine arts investment firm, obtained the Dunlap Broadside of the Declaration of Independence, that was found in 1989, at Southeby's in 1991. It was sold on behalf of the original finder, bringing ($2,400,000) two million, four hundred thousand dollars.
See 1989, 1995, 2000.
1995 1998 found
The "Dunlap Broadside" that was found in 1998 was put up for auction in 1995 but did not sell.
See 1989, 1991, 2000.
2000 1998 found
The unsigned "Dunlap Broadside" that was found in 1998 sold at a New York City Auction, Southeby's in June, 2000. TV Producer, Norman Lear, and Chairman of Critical Pass Inc., David Hayden, paid ($ 8,140,000) eight million one hundred forty thousand dollars. Estimating the proceeds to come in at between 4 to 6 million dollars the Southeby's auction closed at seven million four hundred thousand dollars. Southeby's commission brought the total to the $8.14 million.
See 1989, 1991. 1995.
2003 Engrossed The Declaration of Independence was examined meticulously with minor repairs made before it was moved to a new encasement in 2003. The document is displayed in a hermetically sealed case of glass and aluminum that is filled with inert gas. The document is also monitored, by modern computer technology, for signs of deterioration.
2004 Goddard
Only nine copies of the January 18, 1777 Goddard copies of the Declaration of Independence with all signatures shown are known to exist. Those copies as of 1949 are known to be located at:
Library of Congress    -    Maryland Hall of Records    -    Maryland Historical Society
Massachusetts Archives    -    New York Public Library
Library Company of Philadelphia    -    Rhode Island State Archives
Connecticut State Library of the late John W. Garrett
2004 1823 Stone
Only 33 of the 201 original Official Stone copies are know to still exist. Only 2 of the unofficial strikes on paper are known to exist.
2006 Original
Only a fragment exists of Thomas Jefferson's original draft of the declaration of independence. The "rough draught" that was reviewed by the Committee of Five as well as Thomas Jefferson's original draft are among the manuscript collections of the Library of Congress.
2006 Dunlap


Only 25, of the July 4th& 5th, 1776, Dunlap Broadsides are known to exist to this day. The original copy signed by John Hancock and and Charles Thomson have not survived the first two hundred years of American history. The 25 known copies of the original Dunlap broadsides are owned by private owners, American institutions as well as British institutions.

Researching various differing lists I have compiled the following list, which still remains in question.

American Independence Museum, Exeter, NH
American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia, PA
Chapin Library, Williams College, Williamstown, MA
Chicago Historical Society, IL
City of Dallas, City Hall, Dallas, TX
Harvard University, Cambridge, MA
Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA
Independence National Historic Park, Philadelphia, PA
Indiana University, Lilly Library, Bloomington, IN
Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Washington, DC 1
Library of Congress, Rare Book & Special Collections Div., Washington, DC
Maine Historical Society, City Hall, Portland, ME
Maryland Historical Society, Baltimore, MD
Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston, MA
National Archives, Washington, DC 2
New York Public Library, New York
Pierpont Morgan Library, New York
University of Virginia, Alderman Library , Charlottesville, VA
Yale University, Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library , New Haven, CT

Public Record Office, Admiralty Records, London, England
Public Record Office, Colonial Office 5, London, England

Norman Lear, TV/movie Producer & Chairman, Critical Pass Inc., David Hayden 3
Ira G. Corn, Jr., and Joseph P. Driscoll; Dallas, TX
John Gilliam Wood, Edenton, NC
Scheide Library, Princeton University, Philadelphia, PA 4

1 One of the copies in the Library of Congress was George Washington's personal copy.
2 The National Archives also holds the original engrossed fully signed copy.
Declaration of Independence Road Trip.
4 Privately owned library.
2006 Engrossed

The Icon of Liberty, the signed engrossed Declaration of Independence, is still on view in the rotunda of the National Archives Building in Washington D.C. in the Charters of Freedom exhibit, that also includes the Constitution of the United States and the Bill of Rights. Every year, the exhibit is viewed by more than one million Americans.

Independence Day TimeLine -
Patriotic Poetry -
Flag Links -

American Flags - American, State, World, Featherd flags and more.
Declaration of Independence as amended by Congress
National Anthems
- Lyrics and Audio for Anthems of all Countries of the World.
Thomas Jefferson Papers at the Library of Congress  - 
Jefferson's rough draft of the Declaration of Independence

Print a copy of the Declaration of Independence with your signature!
Waving Flag Images - Free Flag Animations - Military, State, Historical, Worldwide

© Copyright 2005 Roger W Hancock 



Sources for the TimeLine of the Declaration of Independence - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Building to Independence
1773   -   1774   -   1775
-   1776   -

The Declaration Of Independence
-   1776   -
July 4th, 1776
-   1777   -

Continued History
1778 - 1783 - 1785 - 1789 - 1790 - 1800 - 1802
1814 - 1820 - 1823 - 1824 - 1841 - 1848 - 1876
1877 - 1883 - 1894 - 1903 - 1921 - 1924 - 1941
1943 - 1944 - 1952 - 1982 - 1987 - 1989 - 1991
 -   1995 - 2000 - 2003 - 2004 - 2006   -    

TimeLine  Index
One Votes Counts Flag Timeline U.S. Timeline Presidency Timeline State Timelines

All rights reserved. © Copyright 2006 Roger W Hancock

The greatest ability in business is to get along with others and to influence their actions. - John Hancock

Liberty is maintained by Responsible Freedom.  -  Roger W Hancock


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