The first printing of the Declaration of Independence began with great urgency on July 4, 1776 and continued throughout the night of July 5th. The exact number of Prints created that night are unknown. However, only twenty-five of these original Prints have survived. The last auction of a Dunlap Broadside brought $8.14 million dollars.
The Broadside that was placed in the" Journal of the Continental Congress" is the first official recorded document of the American Declaration of Independence and it joins with the engrossed Unanimous Signed Document as the founding record of the United States of America. The new four color Prints of the Dunlap Broadside capture the original document in exact detail The wax wafers that were used to attach the document to the Journal are clearly shown in the new Prints. The original document is now preserved at the National Archives in Washington, D. C. and this historic document is the most important single printed document in American History.
The road to Independence began well before the meeting of the Second Continental Congress. However, on June 7,1776 Richard Henry Lee of Virginia presented a motion for independence. There was reluctance to his motion, but it soon became apparent that his motion would ultimately pass. The Congress appointed a Committee of Five to begin the work on a Declaration on June 11 th. The primary task of developing this document was placed in Thomas Jefferson's hands. His efforts generated a number of rough drafts and a number of changes were made by John Adams and Benjamin Franklin.
On June 28th, the Committee of Five presented to the Second Continental Congress a document entitled "A Declaration by the Representatives of the United States of America in General Congress assembled." Jefferson's text was presented to the Committee of the Whole for discussion after Lee's resolution was approved by Congress on Monday, July 2nd. The New York Delegation abstained from this vote. Over a three day period significant alterations were made to this document and on July 4th the Congress approved the document with the noted changes. Once again the New York Delegation abstained from the vote. Finally , on July 15th the New York Delegation excepts the Declaration and an engrossed document was ordered on July 19th that would be titled as Unanimous.
The Declaration was ordered printed even though the New York Delegation had abstained from its approval. The resulting Broadside would be a non-unanimous Declaration of Independence. The- Congress ordered:
That the committee appointed to prepare the declaration superintend and correct the press. That copies of the declaration be sent to the several assemblies,conventions and committees or councils of safety , and to the commanding officers of the continental troops; that it be proclaimed in each of the United States, and at the head of the Army.
How the Committee of Five carried out this order remains an unanswered part of American History. Some contend that there was a completed official hand written document signed by John Hancock and Charles Thomson. If this had been the case, where is this original document? The evidence suggests that the urgency of getting an accurate printing of Congress' corrections to the Committee's original document required the presence of Jefferson and other members of this Committee during the printing process. This would suggest that the changes to the presented document were hand written on separate sheets of paper and it is most likely that these notes were lost or destroyed at John Dunlap's Shop.
There was a study and examination of seventeen of the Broadsides in 1975. This study by Frederick R. Goff discovered that there differences between the printer's proof located at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania and most of the other Broadsides. An article "a" inserted in the printer's proof was corrected. As a result the Dunlap Broadsides of the 4th and 5th had open spaces. In addition, Goff discovered that type pieces for eleven letters were damaged and the early prints had fewer damaged letters. All of the evidence suggests that Jefferson and some of the other Committee members were directly involved in the printing process. Dunlap must of had a great deal of assistance as each line was type set.
The distribution of the Broadsides allowed twenty-four newspapers throughout the Colonies to publish the Declaration of Independence before the engrossed Unanimous Signed Document was ordered on July 19, 1776. On August the 2nd, the engrossed document was compared at the table to the Dunlap Broadside and was signed by all members present.
The Printer, John Dunlap, was born in Strabane, Ireland, in 1747. He died in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on November 27, 1812. As a young boy, he arrived in America in 1757 apprenticed to his uncle, William Dunlap, a printer in Philadelphia. In 1768, Dunlap acquired his uncles' shop. In 1771, he began to publish a weekly newspaper called "The Pennsylvania Packet". Dunlap was chosen to print the Broadside of the Declaration in 1776 and became the official printed to the Continental Congress in 1778.
Dunlap served in the first troop of Philadelphia cavalry which was the body guard for Washington at the Battle of Trenton and Princeton. In 1780, he gave 4,000 pounds to help supply provisions to the Revolutionary Army. In 1784, he changed his newspaper into a daily which was the first in the United States. In 1787, he and his partner David Claypoole printed the Constitution of the United States and published it in their newspaper.
John Dunlap found himself at the center of the birth of a new
nation and made the most of his opportunities to serve the cause
of freedom. As a printer, soldier, and as a financier to the Revolution,
he deserves to be remembered as a patriot and a man
of action in a time of great danger and sacrifice.
The Current Locations of the Twenty-five Dunlan Broadsides
National Archives, Washington, DC
Library of Congress, Washington, DC (two copies)
Maryland Historical Society, Baltimore
University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia
Independence National Historic Park, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia (Broadside printed on Vellum) Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey New York Historical Society New York Public Library
Pierpont Morgan Library, New York
Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston, MA Harvard University, Cambridge, MA
Chapin Library , Williams College, Williamstown, MA Yale University, New Haven, CT
American Independence Museum, Exeter, NH Maine Historical Society, Portland
Indiana University , Bloomington, IN Chicago ffistorical Society City of Dallas, City Hall
Washington, DC (private collector)
Norman Lear and David Hayden (now on tour throughout the United States)
Public Record Office, United Kingdom (two copies)*
*Two copies were forwarded to England with correspondence from Vice Admiral Lord Richard Howe dated July 28 and August 11, 1776 executed abroad the flagship Eagle, off Staten Island. One of the letters was addressed to Lord George Germain. The Dunlap Broadsides were the official notices to England that the American Colonies had absolved all allegiance to the British Crown and the State of Great Britain.