The New-York Historical Society is celebrating Independence Day by adding a rare copy of the “Stone” facsimile of the Declaration of Independence —one of approximately fifty in existence—to the displays in the Judith and Howard Berkowitz Sculpture Court. The document is being lent to New-York Historical through the courtesy of collector David Rubenstein, managing director of The Carlyle Group, and will remain on view through July 15.
When the Declaration was approved by the Continental Congress on July 4, a manuscript copy signed by John Hancock and Charles Thomson (secretary to Congress) was immediately sent to John Dunlap’s press, and the first broadsides (single printed pages meant to convey news) were rushed into print. Congress waited until later in July to authorize the manuscript, after New York’s assembly instructed their delegates to change their vote to “yes,” making it unanimous. The signers then added their now famous names in August of 1776.
The original Declaration was moved many times, and was frequently unrolled for display to individual visitors. By 1820, Secretary of State John Quincy Adams had become concerned about the fragile condition of the document. With the approval of Congress, Adams commissioned William J. Stone to engrave an exact facsimile. Stone finished his copperplate in 1823, and Congress ordered 200 official copies to be struck on vellum and distributed to signers, families of signers, the Marquis de Lafayette, the President and Vice President and other public officials and institutions.
According to Seth Kaller, president of Seth Kaller, Inc., who acquired the document for Mr. Rubenstein, and arranged its loan to New-York Historical, “The signed Declaration is now so faded only small parts are legible. We are lucky that John Quincy Adams had the foresight to have the Stone facsimiles, thus preserving the image of the Declaration as it looked when it was created in 1776.” Mr. Kaller keeps a census of Stone copies. Approximately 50 of the 200 authorized Stone facsimiles are known to survive.
Visitors who come to New-York Historical during the Independence Day period will be able to commemorate the Fourth of July by viewing the rare “Stone” facsimile, and by
- · meeting re-enactors portraying Benjamin Franklin and his wife, Deborah Read
- · learning about the life of Revolutionary War soldiers from members of the 2nd New York Provincial Battalion
- · hearing about the role of the Hudson River in the War of Independence from master storyteller Jonathan Kruk and balladeer Rich Bala
- · participating in a Presidential Scavenger Hunt
- · and tasting beer from the Empire Brewing Company after visiting the exhibition Beer Here: Brewing New York’s History
The New-York Historical Society, one of America’s pre-eminent cultural institutions, is dedicated to fostering research, presenting history and art exhibitions, and public programs that reveal the dynamism of history and its influence on the world of today. Founded in 1804, New-York Historical has a mission to explore the richly layered political, cultural and social history of New York City and State and the nation, and to serve as a national forum for the discussion of issues surrounding the making and meaning of history.
Visit the New-York Historical Society at 170 Central Park West, New York, N.Y. 10024, 212-873-3400, www.nyhistory.org.
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