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

In June of 1776, Thomas Jefferson, thirty-three years old and already a well-known and accomplished writer, faced an enormous task: to draft a declaration of independence for the American colonies. Drawing on contemporary documents, Jefferson, with help from John Adams and Benjamin Franklin, drafted the seminal document of American history—what he would later call "an expression of the American mind."

The story behind the Declaration of Independence, from its first printing to popular nineteenth-century facsimiles, is illuminated through the Albert H. Small Declaration of Independence Collection—the most comprehensive collection of letters, documents, and early printings relating to the Declaration and its Signers. The collection traces the writing, printing, and dissemination of the Declaration of Independence in 1776, and subsequently, its remaking in the years after the Revolution into the American icon it is today. Documents and letters from the Signers bring to life the stories of the individuals who took great risks at that pivotal moment in American history. Highlights of the collection are on permanent display in the Declaration of Independence Gallery at the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library.

Dunlap printing, 1776

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In Congress, July 4, 1776. A Declaration by the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress Assembled.... Philadelphia: John Dunlap, [1776].