We are educators. Most of the time, we educate children. But when we have the opportunity, we also educate adults as well.
We recently ran across an article on the History Channel’s website that contained some interesting information regarding our Declaration of Independence. And since this is the time of year when our country spends a day of celebrating our independence, we thought we would educate you on some of the lesser-known facts about one very important document. We hope you enjoy.
- The Declaration of Independence wasn’t signed on July 4, 1776.
Congress officially adopted the declaration on July 4, but it would be up to a month later before the delegates signed the document. It took nearly two weeks for the document to be “engrossed” (written on parchment in a clear hand). It was actually signed on August 2, 1776, with 5 delegates signing at a later date and 2 not signing at all.
- More than one copy exists.
Some very familiar names were responsible for seeing that accurate reproductions were printed – Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and Benjamin Franklin being among that group. A printer in Philadelphia was tasked with making copies late on July 4 to be taken to the 13 colonies. These copies predate the actual signed document. Of the hundreds believed to be printed on the night of July 4, only 26 copies have survived.
- When news of the Declaration of Independence reached New York City, it started a riot.
At that time, British Naval ships occupied New York harbor and tensions were high. George Washington read the document to a crowd in front of City Hall, which stirred those in attendance to a riot. A statue of George III was torn down that day, and was later melted down and shaped into 42,000 musket balls to be used by the American army.
- Eight of the 56 signers were born in Britain.
While most of the signers were native to America, eight were actually born in England. In addition, there were signers from Wales, Ireland, Northern Ireland and Scotland as well.
- One signer later recanted his signing of the document.
Richard Stockton of New Jersey became the only signer to recant. Stockton was captured in late November, 1776 by the British army and endured months of harsh treatment and small rations in jail. Due to these circumstances, he recanted his signing of the document and swore loyalty to King George III. However, in December, 1777, after gaining his freedom, he took a new oath of loyalty to the state of New Jersey.
- There was a 44-year age difference between the oldest and youngest signers.
The oldest signer was Benjamin Franklin, who was 70 at the time. The youngest signer was Edward Rutledge of South Carolina, who was only 26 at the time.
- Two additional copies have been found in the last 25 years.
These copies were part of the Dunlop copies (referenced in #3). In 1989, a man in Philadelphia bought a picture frame at a flea market for $4. He later found one of the rare copies of the Declaration of Independence hidden in the back of the frame. It later sold for $8.1 million dollars.
- During World War II, the Declaration of Independence was kept at Fort Knox.
Two weeks after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, both the Declaration and the Constitution were removed from public display and evacuated from Washington D.C. The documents were packed in a specially designed container, latched with padlocks, and sealed with lead. They were kept under the supervision of armed guards. There was a total of 150 pounds of protective gear surrounding this precious document.
- There is something written on the back of the Declaration of Independence.
Just like in the movie National Treasure, there actually is writing on the back of the Declaration. However, that is where the similarities end; unfortunately it is not a treasure map. The message is written upside down, and states, “Original Declaration of Independence dated 4th July 1776.” It is believed that due to the fact that the document was rolled up and moved several times during the Revolutionary War, this was added as a label.