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

On July 4, 1776, the Second Continental Congress voted unanimously to adopt the Declaration of Independence based on Jefferson's draft. John Dunlap, the official printer for Congress, worked through the night and into the next morning, printing the text of the Declaration onto broadsides-single-sided, printed sheets. Early on July 5, John Hancock dispatched these broadsides to be read, posted, and reprinted in order to announce the colonies' independence. The centerpiece of the exhibition is a John Dunlap broadside-one of only twenty-five extant copies.

The Declaration's text first appeared in a newspaper on July 6, 1776, in The Pennsylvania Evening Post. Additional newspaper and state printings on display demonstrate how news of independence spread from Philadelphia throughout the colonies-a process that relied on local printers, messengers traveling on horseback, and public readings of the Declaration in town squares, churches, and military encampments.

Pennsylvania Post printing

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1. The Pennsylvania Evening Post. Philadelphia: Benjamin Towne, 6 July 1776. (KF4506 .A1 1776a)

Exeter broadside

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2. In Congress, July 4, 1776. Declaration. By the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress assembled.... Exeter, N.H.: sold at the Printing Office in Exeter, 1776. (KF4506 .A1 1776f)

Salem broadside

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3. In Congress, July 4, 1776. A Declaration by the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress Assembled.... Salem, Massachusetts-Bay: E. Russell, 1776. (KF4506 .A1 1776)