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

The exhibition highlights rare and unique printings of the Declaration made in the years after the Revolution. In 1815, the United States concluded its second war with Britain, the War of 1812, and American nationalism blossomed in its wake. Reinforcing this renewed patriotism, the passing of the signers' generation created a passionate interest in all things associated with the nation's founding. Several entrepreneurs sought to capitalize on this demand by rushing to produce the first facsimile printings of the Declaration of Independence -- offering the American public its very first look at the document.

In 1818, Benjamin Owen Tyler produced the first facsimile of the Declaration-an elaborate, painstakingly hand-copied engraving. The next year, Tyler's business rival, John Binns, published a monumental, illustrated engraving of the Declaration. On display in "Declaring Independence" are these rare, early printings, as well as the subscription book in which Tyler took orders for his facsimile. His subscription book contains the signatures of Jefferson, James Madison, John Quincy Adams, and other notables of the new republic.

Tyler's subscription book, cover

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1. Benjamin Owen Tyler's subscription book for a facsimile of the Declaration of Independence, 1815-1818. (MSS 12143)

Tyler's subscription book, page 2

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2. Benjamin Owen Tyler's subscription book, page 2. (MSS 12143)

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3. Letter from Thomas Jefferson to Peter S. DuPonceau, 28 December 1820. (MSS 12613-a)