The Declaration of Independence

Thursday, July 1
Since I will be unable to blog for probably a week or perhaps longer, I did not want Independence Day to pass unmentioned. Therefore, I have included several postings related to the day - some Civil War artwork done by my students, some musings on patriotism, a reprint of a letter to the editor I wrote a couple of years ago, and a short video excerpt of my performance last 4th of July in Springfield, Oregon.

First Question: What is the significance of the pictured flag above?

Second Question: Who authored these words and what was their significance?
"That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be, Free and Independent States, that they dissolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political Connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is, and ought to be totally dissolved."
Approved July 2, 1776 by the 2nd Continental Congress.

Did you know that the Declaration of Independence is only 2/3's Jefferson's. The other 1/3 was authored in bits and pieces by "other cooks in the kitchen," much to Jefferson's dismay.

The words "United States of America" appear for the first time in the Declaration of Independence.

200+ copies were printed on the night of July 4, of which only 26 are known to exist. There are called the Dunlap Editions and one set a record price paid for an American document at $8,140,000.

Contrary to popular belief, historians doubt that the Pennsylvania Statehouse Bell (dubbed the "Liberty Bell" many years later by abolitionists) was actually rung after the reading of the Declaration in Philadelphia.

During WWII, the Declaration of Independence was taken by a United States Calvary Unit and the Secret Service to Fort Knox, Kentucky, by train for safe storage.

It was almost 45 years before the American public first viewed the original Declaration of Independence.

The signers did not publish their names until almost six months later (other than John Hancock and his Secretary Charles Thompson). In January, having fled Philadelphia and temporarily residing in Baltimore, Maryland, Congress commissions the third edition of the Declaration of Independence with the signers names made public for the first time. Published January 18, 18777, this edition is known today as the "Goodard Edition" named after Mary Katherine Goodard, the first woman Postmaster in the United States who also owned an inherited printing press and published the document for Congress.

The Declaration took two weeks to pen and began being signed Aug. 2 - not the 4th of July. It was embellished (calligraphy we call it today) by Timothy Matlock, Secretary to the Secretary of Congress Charles Thompson. It contains two mistakes if you look closely.

The delegates signed the Declaration of Independence in geographical order from north to south starting with New Hampshire and ending with Georgia. Their signatures started on the right side and moved to the left as they affixed their names.

July 4, 1776, when Congress voted for independence it was not unanimous.

Benjamin Franklin is reported to have said after signing, "Now we must all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately."

The last to affix his signature, Thomas McKean, did not sign it until 1781.

Seven signers of the Declaration of Independence had not voted for independence. They were not delegates to Congress at the time of the historic vote, but affixed their names to the document.

The original Declaration of Independence is much faded for two reasons. It hung on a wall opposite a large window for many years in the U.S. Patent Office and consequently faded. Some ink was also sacrificed when a printer William J. Stone used a wet plate process to copy the original by order of John Quincy Adams in 1820 to create what we today know as the Stone Edition. Finished three years later in 1823, Congress ordered 201 copies to be printed. These were given to the three surviving signers, Lafayette of France, and other important notables of the day. Only 33 of these "Stone Editions" are known to exist.

It traveled from Washington to Philadelphia for the Centennial Celebration for display at Independence Hall but following the festivities Philadelphia did not want to give it back stating it rightfully belonged there.

Today the Declaration of Independence is kept in an argon gassed, controlled humidity, bullet proof container which lowers into a bunker at night at the National Archives in Washington D.C. along with the original Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

Americans consistently rank the Declaration of Independence as the #1 historical document of significance.

The expression, "Put your John Hancock here," when asking for a person's signature comes from Hancock being the only delegate to sign the original document.

Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, both Presidents and signers of the Declaration, died exactly 5o years to the day on July 4, 1826.

Years later, they tried to keep James Madison alive a bit longer hoping he might also succumb on the 4th of July. No such luck - he died in May.

Every signer drank alcohol.
One was a minister.
Only one was a Catholic.
Last signer to die was in 1832.

Happy Independence Day July 2 for historians, and for the rest of us - Happy 4th of July!
I really must go to bed.


  1. Hey Mr. Brown! I just want to say Happy early 4th of July! Here's a video I made on that I think you'll like -

  2. Happy 4th of July Mr Brown! Hope all is well for you. I woke up this morning thinking about you and your love for history. I just hope as America celebrates their independence day with families and friends over barbeques and fireworks they don't forget the true meaning of this American holiday! Mr. Brown, Thanks you!