Two rare copies of the Declaration of Independence, never before on public display, will be featured at the Oregon History Museum on the 4th of July in celebration of the museum's new presidential exhibit "Windows on America."
The museum will be open on Thursday, July 4 for Independence Day. Museum hours are 10 AM - 5 PM
The declaration, dated July 4, 1776, was not available to Americans in engraved writing until 1818.
John Binns, a publisher of newspapers and engravings of famous Americans, conceived in 1816 a plan to print an accurate text surrounded by a decorative band of cords, flags, olive branches, state seals, and portraits of George Washington, John Hancock, Alexander Hamilton, and Thomas Jefferson. Secretary of State John Quincy Adams authenticated the signatures, each carefully engraved by Tanner, Vallance, Kearney & Company. Nearly three years of work went into securing the artworks and preparing the plate for printing. Plain copies sold for $10; hand-colored copies were $13. The illustrated work was reproduced in 1872 as the first photoengraving in the world.
The second is a rare Stone copy of the original Declaration. In 1802, John Quincy Adams hired William J. Stone (1798-1865) to create an exact facsimile of the Declaration of Independence. The project consumed three years to etch the text and fifty-six signatures, exactly as written, onto a copper plate. It is likely that Stone put water on the Declaration in order to lift off an ink impression, a process that dramatically faded the original. Stone commissioned 200 copies on vellum, however the copy on display is what is known as a "Peter Force Proof Copy," one of perhaps four copies printed on bank-note paper. It is named for the government official who started the archival documents collections of the Library of Congress. Force served as Stone's assistant and helped in printing the 1823 facsimile.
Another treasure of American democracy on display at the museum is a hand-written letter from Thomas Jefferson to legislative leaders in the state of Georgia, expressing his appreciation for helping elect him to the presidency. Jefferson affirms the supremacy of the Constitution, writing "State rights and State sovereignties, as recognized by the Constitution, are an integral and essential part of our great political fabric. They are bound up by a common ligament with those of the National government, and form with it one system of which the Constitution is the law and the life. A sacred respect to that instrument therefore becomes the first interest and duty of all.
Since 1898, the Oregon History Society has served as Oregon's primary research collection and museum about Oregon history.
The Oregon History Museum is located at 1200 SW Park Avenue in downtown Portland. Museum hours are Monday - Saturday from 10 AM - 5 PM and Sunday from Noon - 5 PM. Museum admission is free for OHS members and Multnomah County residents. Visitor information and a list of current exhibits can be found at: www.ohs.org.