The Printing of the Declaration of Independence

Declaration of IndependenceOn July 4, 1776 the United States Congress ordered that the document prepared by the “Committee of Five”, known as the Declaration of Independence be authenticated and printed by John Dunlap of Philadelphia. “And that copies of this declaration be sent to the several assemblies, conventions and committees, or councils of the continental troops; that it be proclaimed in each of the United States, and at the head of the army.”

Timeline for the Declaration

  • June 7, 1776 — Congress, meeting in Philadelphia, receives Richard Henry Lee’s resolution urging Congress to declare independence.
  • June 11, 1776 — The Committee of Five — Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, and Robert R. Livingston are appointed to a committee to draft a declaration of independence.
  • June 12-27, 1776 — Jefferson, at the request of the committee, drafts a declaration, of which only a fragment exists. Jefferson’s clean, or “fair” copy, the “original Rough draught,” is reviewed by the committee. Both documents are in the manuscript collections of the Library of Congress.
  • June 28, 1776  A fair copy of the committee draft of the Declaration of Independence is read in Congress.
  • July 1-4, 1776  Congress debates and revises the Declaration of Independence.
  • July 2, 1776  Congress declares independence as the British fleet and army arrive at New York.
  • July 4, 1776  Congress adopts the Declaration of Independence in the morning of a bright, sunny, but cool Philadelphia day. John Dunlap prints the Declaration of Independence. These prints are now called “Dunlap Broadsides.” Twenty-four copies are known to exist, two of which are in the Library of Congress. One of these was Washington’s personal copy.
    • The Declaration that Mr. Dunlap printed is very different in appearance from the Declaration we have come to know. Mr. Dunlap printed it on an approximately 14.5 x 18 sheet using the typeface Caslon.
  • July 5, 1776  John Hancock, president of the Continental Congress, dispatches the first of Dunlap’s broadsides of the Declaration of Independence to the legislatures of New Jersey and Delaware.
  • July 6, 1776  Pennsylvania Evening Post of July 6 prints the first newspaper rendition of the Declaration of Independence.
  • July 8, 1776  The first public reading of the Declaration is in Philadelphia.
  • July 9, 1776  Washington orders that the Declaration of Independence be read before the American army in New York
  • July 19, 1776  Congress orders the Declaration of Independence engrossed (officially inscribed) and signed by members.
  • August 2, 1777  Delegates begin to sign engrossed copy of the Declaration of Independence. A large British reinforcement arrives at New York after being repelled at Charleston, S.C.
  • January 18, 1777  Congress, now sitting in Baltimore, Maryland, orders that authenticated copies of the Declaration of Independence, with the names of the members of Congress, be printed by Mary Katharine Goddard of Baltimore Maryland, and sent to each of the United States. Each copy was hand signed by President John Hancock and Chas Thomas, secretary.

The original Declaration, written by Thomas Jefferson, is now exhibited in the Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom in Washington, DC. It has faded badly, largely because of poor preservation techniques during the 19th century. The document measures 29-3/4 inches by 24-1/2 inches.

Printing Partners is proud of our nation’s printing history and the innovations that surround it. We celebrate with all Americans our Independence Day, and our freedom of expression (especially in its printed form), freedom from persecution, and our freedom to “life, liberty and pursuit of happiness”.

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