Rare Declaration Copies Displayed in PA Museums

Two rare copies of the Declaration of Independence will be displayed in Pennsylvania museums this Summer. 

Two rare copies of the Declaration of Independence will be displayed in Pennsylvania museums this Summer. 

On June 25, the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia unveiled a display of a rare broadside copy, on loan from the American Philosophical Society. The first edition of the document was printed on July 4, 1776 by John Dunlap, a newspaper printer who joined the Revolution and fought at the battles of Trenton and Princeton. Dunlap created approximately 200 copies of his broadside in one night, twenty-six of which are known to still exist. Of these, two complete copies are held in Philadelphia, one by the APS and one by Independence Hall; a large of a third copy is held by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

The copy currently on display is from Dunlap’s second printing, created on July 19 of the same year, and is the only known copy printed on vellum. This unique document was donated to APS in 1828 from the personal papers of astronomer David Rittenhouse and has not left their collections since its acquisition. It will be on display until November. 

An anastatic copy of the Declaration, one of two known to exist, will be displayed in in Bethlehem’s National Museum of Industrial History. It is part of the museum’s new exhibit, “Hot Off the Press: Printing and Papermaking,” which will run until October. The copy is owned by historian and president of the Heritage Collectors’ Society Tom Lingenfelter. At 1pm on July 1, the document will be unveiled and Lingenfelter will demonstrate anastatic printing, a technique that was first patented in the late 1840s and quickly made obsolete by photography. The other known copy of the Declaration created with this process is held in Independence Hall.