Just the Facts

Five Facts on the Declaration of Independence

By No Labels
July 3, 2018 | Blog

Tomorrow, Americans will come together to celebrate the 243rd anniversary of America’s Independence.  July 4th is marked by barbecues and fireworks; however, it is at heart a celebration of the Declaration of Independence and the brave Americans who risked their lives to create and protect our country’s founding document.  Here are five facts on the Declaration of Independence.

The United States officially gained its freedom on July 2nd, not July 4th

The Second Continental Congress officially declared its independence on July 2, 1776, taking a unanimous vote for America’s separation from Britain.  However, they needed an official document to finalize the move and lay out their reasoning to both the American public and the British Crown.  So, on July 4th the members officially adopted the Declaration of Independence.  According to historian Pauline Maier, in 1777 no member of Congress honored the July 2nd anniversary of their vote of independence in time. This was brought to their attention shortly afterward, and July 4th was instead named as the official day of independence.

The original copies of the Declaration of Independence did not have the now-famous signatures of members of the Continental Congress

After Congress approved the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, it commissioned 200 copies with just the signature of John Hancock, President of the Second Continental Congress.  Members of the Continental Congress only began signing their names to the document on August 2nd and many of the signatories had not even been present when the Declaration was originally approved.  Interestingly, the signers’ names were not released publicly until early 1777, when Congress allowed the printing of an official copy with all the signatures.

One of the original copies of the Declaration of Independence was found at a flea market

John Dunlap was the first person commissioned to print copies of the Declaration of Independence following its approval by Congress on July 4, 1776.  Of the 200 copies he produced—known as the “Dunlap Broadsides”—only 26 known copies are left today.  In 1989, a shopper at a flea market found a Dunlap Broadside behind an old photograph they had purchased in Adamstown, PA. While the buyer spent $4 that day, they sold the Dunlap Broadside to a TV producer named Norman Lear for $8.1 million.

The Declaration of Independence currently housed in United States Archives is not the original copy of the document

The whereabouts of the version of the Declaration of Independence that was officially adopted by members of the Second Continental Congress are unknown.  The document currently housed in the National Archives—complete with a case made of bulletproof glass, argon gas, and a 55-ton underground vault that houses the document at night—is known as the “Matlack Declaration.” This version of the Declaration of Independence was ordered by Congress on July 19, 1776 and was not printed but written out by hand.

One of the original printers of The Declaration of Independence was a woman

On January 18, 1777 Congress ordered an authenticated copy of the Declaration of Independence be printed and sent to each state in the union.  For this job they turned to Mary Katharine Goddard, one of America’s first female publishers who had originally been forced to do her job under the pseudonym  M.K. Goddard due to prejudice against women.  Goddard not only completed the job, but boldly placed her real name at the bottom of the document at a time when doing so would have likely meant a death sentence if the British won the Revolutionary War.

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