Free For All: Declaration of Independence Visits Tucson

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Yale_Dunlap_Broadside.jpg
  • Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University

Whatever disagreements we might have with our fellow citizens, we imagine most of us agree that the writing of this document was a landmark moment in the history of freedom.

One of the 25 remaining Dunlap broadsides of the Declaration of Independence is coming to Tucson this weekend. You can see it at the Arizona Historical Society’s Arizona History Museum, 949 E. 2nd St., between 11 a.m. and 8 p.m.on Sunday, Feb. 21, and between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 22.

Museum admission is free both days. Info: 520-628-5774

They're looking for volunteers. If you want to help out, call Carol at 520-617-1158.

Details from the Arizona Historical Society:

A broadside is about the size of a full sheet of newspaper, printed on one or both sides and folded.

On July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress, led by John Hancock, renders official Thomas Jefferson's text of the Declaration of Independence. The manuscript is rushed to the shop of printer John Dunlap in Philadelphia. Dunlap typesets the document and creates about 200 broadsides of the text.

The Dunlap broadsides are delivered to the nation's founders early in the morning on July 5, 1776. One copy is officially entered into the Congressional Journal, and additional copies of the freshly drafted Declaration of Independence are carried by riders on horseback throughout the colonies and read aloud to assembled colonists. John Hancock, president of the Continental Congress, dispatches Dunlap broadside copies of the Declaration to America's political and military leaders.

(The "original copy" of the Declaration of Independence - the one that was signed by members of Congress - is at the National Archives in Washington. However, this famous copy wasn't produced until later in the summer of 1776, and wasn’t signed until August and later in 1776, when Congress returned to Philadelphia after a summer break.)

Today there are only 25 of these July 4 — July 5, 1776 first printing Dunlap broadsides that are known to exist. The copy that will be on display in Tucson was purchased at auction ten years ago for $8.14 million. This copy was discovered in 1989 by a man after he purchased a painting for four dollars at a flea market because he was interested in the frame. Concealed in the backing of the frame was this original Dunlap broadside of the Declaration of Independence.

This Declaration of Independence broadside will also be on display in Phoenix on Saturday, February 20, 2010, 8:00 a.m. — 5:00 p.m. at the Arizona Capitol Museum, 1700 W. Washington St. Phone: 602-926-3620.

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