An exhibition featuring the
Albert H. Small Declaration of Independence Collection
at the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library

In response to the competing printings, Secretary of State John Quincy Adams commissioned William J. Stone to produce an official facsimile. In order to capture the exact image of the officially inscribed, or engrossed, Declaration, Stone likely moistened its surface in order to transfer some of the ink from the original onto his copper plate. This would help explain the poor condition of the engrossed Declaration now at the National Archives. In 1823, the State Department printed two hundred of Stone's engravings on parchment. A congressional resolution specified the distribution of these documents; on display is one of the two copies presented to the Marquis de Lafayette.

In the years since the Revolution, reform and political groups from abolitionists and secessionists to labor unions and civil rights activists have used the words of the Declaration to support their causes. The collection includes examples of these reinterpretations of the Declaration of Independence, illustrating its lasting impact on American society.

1823 printing of Stone's engraving

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In Congress, July 4th, 1776. The Unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen United States of America. [Washington, D.C.]: engraved by W. I. Stone for the Dept. of State by order of J. Q. Adams, Sect. of State, 1823. (KF4506 .A1 1823)