Thursday, August 12, 2004
American history buffs will have a rare opportunity to view an original copy of the Declaration of Independence today at First National Bank of Steamboat Springs.
The bank's vault is being used to store the "Dunlap broadside" copy of the declaration while it makes an appearance at a convention here in the midst of a nationwide tour. The document's public appearance from 9 to 11:30 a.m. was being arranged by local accounting firm Tredway, Henion and Kerr PC, together with the bank, through corporate connections.
Paul Knowles of the bank's marketing department said members of the public are welcome to bring their cameras to photograph the document.
Many people may not realize that before the Declaration of Independence was committed and signed in calligraphy on the parchment version that resides in the national archives, it was typeset and printed.
It is one of the 25 remaining printed copies. The hand-signed version that most people think was executed July 4, 1776, actually wasn't created until Aug. 2 of that year.
The Continental Congress, led by John Hancock, officially approved Thomas Jefferson's text of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. The manuscript then was rushed to the Philadelphia print shop of John Dunlap, who typeset the document and made about 200 broadsides -- posters about the size of a full sheet of newspaper.
The broadsides were delivered to the nation's founders early July 5. Copies were sent to all 13 colonies and distributed to members of George Washington's military so they could be read aloud.
The revolt against British rule had begun; a copy of the declaration was sent to British officials on July 28, 1776.
The calligraphy copy of the document was created and signed by most of the 56 members of the Continental Congress on Aug. 2. However, some signatures weren't added for several months.
As recently as the late 1980s, it was thought that only 24 copies of the Dunlap broadsides remained in existence. The 25th, which is in Steamboat today, was discovered when a flea market shopper purchased a framed painting for $4. While inspecting a tear in the painting, the owner discovered a folded Dunlap broadside behind it.
It later was authenticated by Sotheby's and an independent expert. Norman Lear and his wife, Lyn, purchased it from Sotheby's online auction, and Lear made it his mission to bring the document to the American people.