[Approaching] Independence Day, I was doing a little reflecting upon the history surrounding the Declaration of Independence. And I thought it would be of equal interest to many of my readers to look at some often-overlooked aspects of the declaration’s production and legacy.
Several historical websites hold some fascinating facts about this national treasure — including the National Archives and Records Administration’s site, at http://www.archives.gov. In addition, on History’s website, the article “9 Things You May Not Know About the Declaration of Independence,” by Elizabeth Harrison, has some intriguing notes. Let me elaborate on some of those and convey a few others I’ve discovered.
1) Benjamin Franklin wrote the first declaration of independence.
In April 1775, the Revolutionary War began at Lexington and Concord. On July 5, 1775 — an entire year before the adoption of the Declaration of Independence — the Continental Congress adopted the Olive Branch Petition, written by John Dickinson, which appealed directly to British King George III for reconciliation between the Colonies and Great Britain. Though Franklin signed the petition for the sake of consensus, he radically differed with it and said that stronger sentiments were necessary because the petition was destined to be rejected.
Last [time], I highlighted four little-known facts about the Declaration of Independence. Here are a few more facts to add to those oddities:
There are at least 26 surviving paper copies of the Declaration of Independence of the hundreds made in July 1776 for circulation among the Colonies.
After Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence, the Committee of Five, which was appointed to write it, was also responsible with overseeing its reproduction for proclamation to those living in the Colonies. The reproduction was done at the shop of Philadelphia printer John Dunlap.
“On July 5, Dunlap’s copies were dispatched across the 13 colonies to newspapers, local officials and the commanders of the Continental troops. These rare documents, known as ‘Dunlap broadsides,’ predate the engrossed version signed by the delegates. Of the hundreds thought to have been printed on the night of July 4, only 26 copies survive. Most are held in museum and library collections, but three are privately owned,” according to History’s website.
9) One of the 26 known July 1776 copies of the Declaration of Independence was found behind an old painting purchased at a flea market for $4.
In 1991, one of 24 known copies at the time of the declaration — and one of only three known to be privately owned — was auctioned for $2.42 million. What’s even more staggering is where it was originally found.
According to The New York Times, “the previous owner, who was not identified, had told Sotheby’s (art auctioneers) he bought a torn painting for $4 in a flea market in Adamstown, Pa., because he was interested in its frame. When he got home, he said, he removed the painting — a dismal country scene — and concluded the frame could not be salvaged, but found the Declaration, folded and hidden in the backing.”