Declaration of Independence, at CBMAA | Rock Candy

Declaration of Independence, at CBMAA



The Dunlap Broadside
  • U.S. National Archives and Records Administration
  • The Dunlap Broadside

"Declaration: Birth of America," coming to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art June 30, will put on display one of only 26 (according to Wikipedia) known surviving broadsides printed of the Declaration of Independence to spread the word of independence throughout the colonies and the Continental Army.

A press release from Crystal Bridges says that an estimated 200 copies of the so-called Dunlap Broadside were printed the evening of July 4, 1776, in John Dunlap's print shop in Philadelphia. Curatorial director David Houston likened the broadside to "the radio or internet ... It was the fastest, most technologically advanced method available of disseminating information during colonial times. Broadsides were sent to each of the colonies, and read aloud in public along the way for everyone to hear. It was the closest thing they had to mass communication."

The broadside and other American documents to be on display are on loan to Crystal Bridges by a private collector, the museum's press release says. Of the 26 Dunlap copies, 20 are in American public institutions, three in British institutions, and three are in private hands, according to Wikipedia. (The Crystal Bridges press release said there are 25 extant copies; not sure who is right.) One copy is owned by Norman Lear, who with David Hayden paid $8.14 million for a broadside that had been found in the back of a framed picture that sold for $4 at a Philadelphia yard sale. Another copy was sold by the New-York Historical Society in the 1990s. It's possible Alice Walton is the owner of the broadside and the other documents and has loaned them to the museum she created, but who knows?

The other documents to be displayed are two printed newspaper accounts from 1776, a hand-written letter from King George III to his generals, a printed edition of the Virginia Bill of Rights, an American broadside description of the Battle of Bunker Hill, and the Franklin printing of the Treaty of Paris, which ended fighting between England and the United States of America. The exhibit runs through Sept. 17; members will be able to get a free preview from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. June 29. There will be no charge to see the exhibit.

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