Contact: Helen Dalrymple (202) 707-1940, Jill Brett (202) 707-2905

May 11, 1995

Library of Congress To Exhibit Draft of the Declaration of Independence

For the first time ever, the Library of Congress will display the only surviving fragment of the earliest known draft of the Declaration of Independence, written in June 1776 by Thomas Jefferson. This fragment will be on display at the Library for five days, beginning June 29. The special exhibition will also include Thomas Jefferson's "original Rough draught" of the Declaration of Independence, which consists of four pages in Jefferson's hand. This draft shows the 86 revisions made by a committee of Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Robert Livingston and Roger Sherman, and the Continental Congress sitting as a committee of the whole.

This exhibition is the second in a series of public previews of treasured documents from the collections of the Library. These previews will culminate in the permanent exhibition, Treasures of the Library of Congress, which will open in the spring of 1997 in conjunction with the grand reopening to the public of the Thomas Jefferson Building, which has been under renovation since 1986.

Also on display will be the following items:

  • A "Dunlap Broadside," one of 24 surviving copies of the first printing of the Declaration of Independence, published by Philadelphia printer John Dunlap on the evening of July 4, 1776;
  • A fragment of George Washington's personal copy of the "Dunlap Broadside" which he ordered read to his troops in New York on July 9 and brought home to Mount Vernon at war's end in 1783;
  • The last letter ever written by Thomas Jefferson, dated June 24, 1826, 10 days before he died, in which he stated that the Declaration of Independence should be held up as a beacon of freedom to the rest of the world. In the letter, which was addressed to the Mayor of Washington, Roger C. Weightman, he declined to attend the 50th anniversary celebration of the Declaration of Independence in the District of Columbia because of his failing health. Coincidentally, both Jefferson and John Adams, another great defender of liberty, died on July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.
  • Several contemporaneous prints depicting the people and events of 1776.

In commemoration of the Fourth of July holiday, 219 years after its inception, the exhibition will be on display through July 4, 1995, in Madison Memorial Hall, 101 Independence Ave S.E. The exhibition is free and open to the public.

Special hours for the exhibition are 9:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. on June 29, June 30 and July 3; and from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, July 1 and Tuesday, July 4. Only Madison Memorial Hall and the Madison Gallery will be open on Tuesday, July 4; all other facilities in the Library of Congress will be closed. The exhibition is closed on Sunday, July 2.

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PR 95-075
5/9/95
ISSN 0731-3527

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