On August 2, 1776, 56 delegates to Congress signed the Declaration of Independence, and Great Britain received word about the Declaration eight days later. Find out how much you know about America’s declaration of freedom from Great Britain.
The Declaration of Independence Wasn’t Signed on Independence Day. Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence on July 4, and this is why Independence Day is celebrated on this date. However, the document was unsigned for about a month afterward because it had to be written out on parchment first. Most of the delegates signed the document on August 2; however, a few signed later, and some never signed it at all.
When the Declaration of Independence Was Read to the Crowd Gathered in New York, a Riot Started in Celebration. Even though there were a large number of British naval ships sitting in the harbor at New York at the time, George Washington read the Declaration of Independence while standing boldly in front of New York’s City Hall. The crowd was so pleased by the news that they tore down George III’s statue, which was melted down to make over 42,000 musket balls to help arm the new American army that would fight for its freedom.
During World War II, the Declaration Was Stashed Safely Away at Fort Knox. Following the deadly attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese, the Declaration, along with the U.S. Constitution, was removed from Washington, D.C. for safety. The two documents traveled with a contingent of armed guards and were packed in special padlocked containers that were lead sealed and put into an even larger box. With additional protection supplied by the Secret Service, the documents were taken by train to Louisville, Kentucky, and escorted by 13th Armored Division cavalry troops to Fort Knox.
More Than One Copy Exists After the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, the “Committee of Five”—Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman and Robert R. Livingston—was charged with overseeing the reproduction of the approved text. This was completed at the shop of Philadelphia printer John Dunlap. On July 5, Dunlap’s copies were dispatched across the 13 colonies to newspapers, local officials and the commanders of the Continental troops. These rare documents, known as “Dunlap broadsides,” predate the engrossed version signed by the delegates. Of the hundreds thought to have been printed on the night of July 4, only 26 copies survive. Most are held in museum and library collections, but three are privately owned.
Two Additional Copies Have Been Found in the Last 25 Years In 1989, a Philadelphia man found an original Dunlap Broadside hidden in the back of a picture frame he bought at a flea market for $4. One of the few surviving copies from the official first printing of the Declaration, it was in excellent condition and sold for $8.1 million in 2000. A 26th known Dunlap broadside emerged at the British National Archives in 2009, hidden for centuries in a box of papers captured from American colonists during the Revolutionary War. One of three Dunlap broadsides at the National Archives, the copy remains there to this day.