Which Version is This, and Why Does it Matter?

There is no singular authoritative version of the Declaration of Independence. Most Americans and many historians consider "the" Declaration of Independence to be the engrossed and signed parchment, on display at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. The image that comes to mind when most people think of the Declaration of Independence is actually the William J. Stone engraving of the engrossed and signed parchment. Every few years, when the story of a newly discovered copy of the Declaration of Independence surfaces, the copy is often a Stone engraving, or even a reprint of the Stone engraving by Peter Force. There are also rare newspaper editions where the text is condensed to the front page or spread out over multiple columns, manuscripts of typically unknown origins, and broadsides representing a small fraction of the number that were printed and proclaimed in the summer of 1776. So, when you see a copy of the Declaration of Independence, how do you know what version it is? And, why does that matter?

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When and How did the Colonies Find Out about the Declaration?

Most Americans in the summer of 1776 learned the news of independence through newspapers, as well as broadsides and public readings. The first report of the Continental Congress declaring independence was published in The Pennsylvania Evening Post on July 2nd, followed by the text of the Declaration in the July 6th issue. Philadelphians would have learned about independence almost immediately, while New Yorkers found out three or four days later, Bostonians almost two weeks later, and South Carolinians almost a full month later. 

Map of Dissemination of Declaration of Independence

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Check out this animation of how the Declaration of Independence spread through the newspapers!

The Signers

Did you know Charles Carroll of Carrollton was the last living signer of the Declaration of Independence? Ever wondered why one signer's name was left off of many early printing of the Declaration? What were the signers really like?

Click here to learn more about the signers of the Declaration of Independence. This resource will be constantly updated with new materials. If you have a question about the signers, ask it here!

Timeline of Last Living Signers

The Declaration Today

Events, exhibitions, and news articles highlighting the Declaration of Independence in our world today

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