The news and text of the Declaration of Independence reached England by mid-August 1776. In the newly United States, the text had been printed in over 30 newspapers in the span of a month. In Great Britain and Ireland, the Declaration was printed in still more newspapers, from London to Dublin, from Edinburgh to Canterbury. The majority of British newspaper printings of the Declaration of Independence look similar to the American printings. But some censored the text, even going so far as to change words or only excerpt certain portions. Examine how these choices change the meaning, and in many cases even shift the target, of the Declaration of Independence.... Read more about Unsullied by Falsehood: The Present ---- of G---- B------
One of the most popular Thanksgiving-related myths in American history is the notion that Benjamin Franklin preferred the turkey as the national symbol of the United States, over the bald eagle. This story gained popularity in November 1962, when the New Yorker featured a cover illustration by Anatole Kovarsky of the Great Seal of the United States with a turkey in the place of the bald eagle. That same decade, the musical 1776 premiered on Broadway, and featured a song called "The Egg", where Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams compare the birth of a new nation through the Declaration of Independence to an egg hatching. This launches a debate over which bird should symbolize America: John Adams calls for the eagle, Jefferson for the dove, and Franklin (of course) for the turkey. How did we come to associate the symbolism of the turkey with Benjamin Franklin, and is there any truth to it?
Last month, we debunked John Trumbull's Declaration of Independence. Often assumed to depict the signing of the Declaration of Independence, Trumbull actually chose to immortalize the moment when the Committee of Five presented their draft of the Declaration to John Hancock and the Continental Congress.
So, when was the Declaration of Independence signed?
Spoiler: NOT ON JULY 4TH.* *Most likely
Here is everything we know about the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the signatures, and why those signatures matter.
In previews last year, the award-winning musical Hamilton included a short song at the top of Act 2 (between Thomas Jefferson's "What'd I Miss?" and "Cabinet Battle #1") that was cut before the musical moved to Broadway. The number was called "No John Trumbull", and antagonist/narrator Aaron Burr sang the following lines:
You ever see a painting by John Trumbull? Founding Fathers in a line, looking all humble Patiently waiting to sign a declaration, to start a nation No sign of disagreement, not one grumble The reality is messier and richer, kids The reality is not a pretty picture, kids Every cabinet meeting is a full-on rumble What you 'bout to see is no John Trumbull - Hamilton: An American Musical, Lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda
The founding of the United States of America was certainly not the "pretty picture" John Trumbull's Declaration of Independence leads the viewer to believe. More specifically, the events surrounding the Declaration of Independence had very little resemblance to this now famous painting.... Read more about Unsullied by Falsehood: No John Trumbull
This is the first entry in a new series called "Unsullied by Falsehood" exploring assumptions, mistakes, and legends in the history of the Declaration of Independence. The series title is inspired by a cut phrase from the Rough Draft of the Declaration of Independence: "To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world, for the truth of which we pledge a faith yet unsullied by falsehood."
As we near July 4th and the 240th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, a familiar image will circulate and pop up in the minds of most Americans.
This is not the original parchment of the Declaration of Independence, engrossed by Timothy Matlack and signed by 56 delegates. Today, that parchment looks like this:
The clearer, crisper image is actually an engraving made by William J. Stone in 1823. It is generally accepted that the Stone engraving is an exact facsimile of the original parchment, because Stone used the original to create his engraving. His method of reproducing the engrossed and signed parchment has been the topic of heated debate -- some believe he used a wet transfer process, which removed ink from the original parchment and worsened its already-faded condition, some believe he was a skilled enough engraver to use other copying methods. Regardless, the Stone engraving has usurped the original parchment in our collective imagination as the image of the Declaration of Independence.