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John Dunlap
Dunlap Broadside [Declaration of Independence]
Manuscript, 1 sheet (printed)

47 x 38 cm
In Congress, July 4, 1776, a declaration by the representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress assembled

The Library of Congress

United States. In Congress, July 4, 1776, a declaration by the representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress assembled. [Philadelphia: Printed by John Dunlap, 1776] Image. Retrieved from the Library of Congress,


    1 sheet ([1] p.)  47 x 38 cm.


LC classification

    Portfolio 39b

Variant title

    Also known as: Dunlap Declaration of Independence

Related names

    Dunlap, John, 1747-1812.
    Force, Peter, 1790-1868, former owner. DLC
    Ridgely, David, 1790?-1841? DLC
    Printed Ephemera Collection (Library of Congress) DLC




    "Signed by order and in behalf of the Congress, John Hancock, President. Attest., Charles Thomson, Secretary."
    The first printing of the Declaration of Independence.
    Goff notes a difference in the placement of the imprint in two states of the broadside. In the earlier state the "P" of Philadephia is under the comma after Thomsons name, in the later state the "P" is under the "n" in Thomsons name.
    LC copy is the second state. Inscribed on verso in ink: Independence. DLC
    LC copy has pencilled inscription on verso in Ridgelys hand: For Col. P. Force, Washington, from D. Ridgely, Annapolis. DLC


Excerpt from Library of Congress:

Transcript of Publishing the Declaration of Independence

July 1776 was pivotal in the history of the United States and the history of democracy. The American Revolution was little more than a civil war. The Continental Army was outnumbered three to one by the British and their German mercenaries. The British Navy dominated the high seas, cutting off supplies and arms. America was seeking support both domestically and internationally. The Continental Congress met in Philadelphia to draft a declaration of independence which would clearly state the reasons for the Revolution and hopefully garner desperately needed arms and ammunition and soldiers. Thomas Jefferson wrote the original draft which was revised in committee and by the whole Congress. It was printed as a broadside on July 4 and distributed to be read publicly throughout the colonies. To achieve even wider distribution, Congress ordered it to be printed in newspapers as well.

The Continental Congress saw the Declaration of Independence as a powerful tool. The support of nations like France, the Netherlands, and Poland was crucial. Declaring independence made it possible to take the Revolution out of the arena of civil war and put it directly on the international stage as a war for independence. The simplicity and eloquence of the Declaration of Independence immediately gained the attention of the world and has inspired democratic movements ever since. Getting the word out was a priority.

On the evening of July 4, 1776, John Dunlap, a Philadelphia printer, took the manuscript copy of the Declaration and printed it as a single-sheet broadside. It took a little longer for it to appear in newspapers.

Colonial printers held a unique position in the history of American printing. Printers in Great Britain had a legal monopoly on most printed material, such as the English-language Bible, dictionaries, encyclopedias, and all maps. American printers were limited to producing newspapers, almanacs, sermons, addresses, pamphlets, primers and other lesser items. To make ends meet, most colonial printers had other jobs. Many maintained book shops and dry-goods stores. A number of printers were also postmasters. Printers were by default editors, publishers, and distributors. Because they had to wear many hats, they had great influence in the colonies. One of their crowning achievements was the nationwide distribution of the Declaration of Independence. Each of its printings has something important to tell us about life in the United States at the time of the nation’s birth.

Benjamin Towne, a Philadelphia printer located "in Front-street, near the London Coffee-House," was the first to print the Declaration in a newspaper. On July 6, 1776, The Pennsylvania Evening Post, which was published every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, carried the Declaration on the front page. At this time Towne was an ardent patriot. However, Towne was an opportunist and a turncoat. He switched sides several times during the war, depending on whether the British or the Americans were occupying Philadelphia at the time. By the end of the war he was viewed as a traitor. He lost most of his subscribers and advertisers. He started printing The Pennsylvania Evening Post every day, making it the first daily newspaper in the United States. By that time it was reduced to a single sheet and he hawked it himself on the street. He was not successful, and ceased publication in 1784.

On July 10, Mary Katherine Goddard devoted the front page of her newspaper, The Maryland Journal and The Baltimore Journal, to the Declaration. Mary Goddard was one of thirty woman printers in the colonies. Printing was one the few professions open to women at this time. Money was scarce throughout the Revolution. Mary’s subscribers often paid in goods rather than cash. To raise cash, Mary opened a store adjacent to the print shop, selling the goods she received. She was the first woman in the American colonies to serve as postmaster, a position she filled for fourteen years. The prejudice at this time against women making a profit led to her dismissal as postmaster. She petitioned Congress and wrote George Washington appealing her dismissal, to no avail. She spent her remaining years running her own book shop.

The Pennsylvania Gazette was the most successful newspaper in colonial America. It owed its success to Benjamin Franklin, who wrested control of the paper from Samuel Keimer in 1729 and then used his influence as postmaster to increase its circulation and list of subscribers. Franklin introduced the editorial column, humor, and the first weather report and the first cartoon, the famous drawing of a divided snake with the caption "Join or Die," which appeared in 1754 in response to the French and Indian massacres of settlers in Virginia and Pennsylvania. By 1776, the paper was owned and run by David Hall Jr., the son of Franklin’s partner, David Hall Sr., and William Sellers. On July 10, 1776, they printed the Declaration of Independence on columns one and two. On column three are two of fourteen advertisements for rewards of the return of slaves and indentured servants. This traffic in human beings was a fact of life and big business in the colonies. Advertisements about the slaves for sale and runaways of all sortsincluding slaves, apprentices, wives, indentured servants as well as deserterswas also a major source of revenue for colonial newspapers. This newspaper shows the world of radical inequalities from which the Declarations affirmation that "all men are created equal" emerged.

The Pennsylvania Journal was the major competitor to The Pennsylvania Gazette. It was owned and run by William Bradford and his son Thomas. In 1754 he established the London Coffee-House, which served as the seat of the merchants exchange in Philadelphia. The Bradfords were the official printers to the First Continental Congress. On July 10, 1776, he printed the Declaration of Independence on page one. He was a colonel in the Pennsylvania militia and fought bravely during the War. He was severely wounded at the Battle of Princeton and afterwards his health and business declined rapidly. His dying words to his children were, "Though I bequeath you no estate, I leave you in the enjoyment of liberty." He was the outstanding soldier-editor of the Revolution, and his career shows both the close connection between journalism and politics and how deeply personal the Revolutionary cause could be for some printers.

The Journal was a zealous advocate for the American Revolution. John Holt, the printer, showed his support in his imaginative masthead. The double coiled snake with its tail in its mouth proclaims on the body, "United Now Alive and Free, Firm on the basis Liberty shall stand, And thus supported, ever bless our land, Till Time becomes Eternity." The snake swallowing its tail is a symbol for eternity. Within the coils is a pillar standing on the Magna Carta surmounted by the cap of liberty. The pillar on each side is supported by six arms and hands, representing the colonies. On July 11, Holt devoted a whole page to the Declaration of Independence, using a large typeface and embellishing it with a border of printers’ decorations, the most elaborate printing of a government document up to this time.

The New York Packet began publication in January 1776, "in Water-Street, between the Coffee-House and the Old Slip." Again we have a newspaper adjacent to a coffee-house. The printer was Samuel Loudon, a young Irishman, who printed his newspaper on Thursday, so the earliest he could print the Declaration was on Thursday, July 11. The front page is devoted to a speech in the House of Lords by the Duke of Richmond. The Declaration does not appear until page two, column three.

At first I could not understand why this speech would be more important than the Declaration, but when you read the speech you find that there was a fierce debate in the House of Lords on the Revolution. The Duke of Richmond questions the ability of the British to finance such a war and worries about the worlds reaction to Great Britain’s destroying the farms, homes, and lives of colonials. He even mentions the trial of Ethan Allen and describes this patriot as the worst type of man but useful in that he can be traded for British prisoners of war. After reading this diatribe on the American Revolution, the reader comes to the Declaration of Independence. If the reader had any doubts about the need for independence, the Richmond speech would quickly change his mind. Reading the Declaration roused the reader to support and fight for freedom. This is a perfect piece of revolutionary propaganda.

James Humphreys Jr. was a Tory who had taken an oath of allegiance to the King of England. His paper, The Pennsylvania Ledger, sported the King’s Arms in the masthead however, he promises political impartiality in his byline. Benjamin Towne, the opportunistic printer of The Pennsylvania Evening Post, hounded Humphreys for his political beliefs and was able to drive him out of town in order to get a share of the congressional printings. In an effort to appease his readers, Humphreys dropped the King’s Arms from his masthead on June 22.

He published the Declaration of Independence on July 13 on page two. On the front page he printed a large ad for the second edition of Thomas Paine’s seminal work Common Sense. Humphreys was a distributor for this work and used his newspaper to generate business for book sales. Page one also carries a debate from the House of Lords dated March 5. The Revolution is the main topic of discussion. The interesting note here is that there seems to be no unity among the Lords in their opinions on the war. A reader gets the impression that ambivalence and division is rampant so that by the time one reads the Declaration, it seems that independence is not impossible.

The Connecticut Courant is the oldest continuously printed newspaper in America. It was established by Samuel Green, the scion of a famous printing family in Connecticut. When Samuel died, his partner Ebenezer Watson took over the paper. After the British captured New York, The Connecticut Courant became the largest newspaper in the Northeast. Ebenezer was famous for his humanity and loyalty to independence. He discarded the King’s Arms as the masthead and substituted the Arms of Connecticut. On July 15, 1776, he printed the Declaration of Independence on page two, following another report of speeches in the Parliament showing growing support for the American cause.

After Ebenezer died of smallpox in 1777, his wife, Hannah, took over the press. She was the first woman printer in Connecticut and successfully ran the printing house through great adversity, including a disastrous fire that destroyed the Courant’s paper mill. She petitioned the Connecticut Legislature for a loan to restore the mill. Within a day, the legislature approved a state-run lottery to support the rebuilding of the mill, and the Courant didn’t miss an issue. Its printing of the Declaration after the pro-American speeches in Parliament shows another way printers could subtly shape support for independence, and its subsequent history confirms the importance of women printers in the Revolutionary era.

John Rogers began The American Gazette on June 22, 1776, but it only lasted a few weeks. This was enough time to include the Declaration of Independence in his July 16 issue. The Declaration is on the first page and the last page of the four pages of the paper. Inside is the speech of Lord Richmond, described earlier in The New York Packet. Rogers used the same masthead as the Journal, an interesting engraving of a ship with a book surrounded by the Angel of Liberty and an Indian Chief. Like Samuel Loudon, he understood how Lord Richmond’s speech could be used as propaganda to tilt public opinion in favor of independence.

Thomas and Samuel Green were sons of the Samuel Green who established a printing dynasty in New England. These brothers published The Connecticut Journal between 1767 and 1809. They published the Declaration of Independence on July 17. It appeared on the second page, set off by a crude decorative border made up of miscellaneous pieces of type that separate the Declaration from the rest of the text.

Edward Powars and Nathaniel Willis purchased The New England Chronicle from Samuel Hall on June 13, 1776. They ran the Declaration on the front page. Inoculation for smallpox was important in 1776, as its far safer and more effective modern form has become again today. The ad in Powars’s and Willis’s newspaper illuminates one of the major dangers that threatened to undermine the American struggle for independence.

The Essex Journal was started by Isaiah Thomas on December 4, 1773. Thomas was a prolific printer, editor, writer, and author of the definitive History of Printing in America from which much of the information on pre-Revolutionary newspapers comes. He founded the American Antiquarian Society, the most important repository of eighteenth-century American newspapers in the world. Thomas sold his rights to the newspaper to Ezra Lunt in 1774 who then sold to John Mycall.

Mycall printed the Declaration on page one. The masthead includes the familiar images of the American Indian and the sailing ship. Following the Declaration, there is a proclamation delivered on July 4 in Watertown, Massachusetts, calling for August 1 to be a day of "public humiliations, fasting and prayer," to bring an end to the British atrocities against Americans. The proclamation ends with the emphatic declamation "GOD save AMERICA!"

John Dixon and William Hunter printed the Declaration of Independence on page two of their July 20 issue of The Virginia Gazette out of Williamsburg, Virginia. Dixon and Hunter owned one of three newspapers titled "Virginia Gazette" in Williamsburg at this time. On June 1, 1776, they printed George Mason’s Declaration of Rights adopted by the Virginia constitutional convention. Thomas Jefferson closely followed the wording and ideas of this document, as can be seen in its words "That all men are born equally free and independent, and have certain inherent natural rights, of which they cannot, by any compact, deprive or divest their posterity among which are, the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety." The material the Gazette printed in the weeks surrounding the appearance of the Declaration of Independence supports Jefferson’s contention that the Declaration was not an original work but "an expression of the American mind."

Benjamin Edes was a great patriot and printer centered in Boston. When the British took Boston he escaped by night in a boat with a press and a few types. He opened a printing house in Watertown, Massachusetts, where he continued publishing his paper The Boston Gazette. The quality of printing suffered greatly due to the deprivations of war. Printing presses, typefaces, ink and paper were all imported from England. Edes had to work with worn type, poor quality ink, and a severe shortage of paper. The available paper was barely fit for printing. To address the paper shortage, Edes advertised for rags from which paper was made. On the last column of page one, along with the Declaration of Independence, Edes advertises "Cash given for clean Cotton and Linen RAGS, at the Printing-Office in Watertown." The Declaration appears here amid evidence of what the war for independence cost printers and their profession.

Alexander Purdie was born in Scotland, where he learned the printing trade. He printed the Declaration of Independence in his Virginia Gazette on the front page on July 26, 1776. At the top of column one he printed this notice: "In COUNCIL, July 20, 1776, Ordered THAT the printers publish in their respective Gazettes the DECLARATION of INDEPENDENCE made by the Honourable of the Continental Congress, and that the sheriff of each county of this commonwealth proclaim the same at the door of his courthouse the first court day after he shall have received the same." This notice is primary evidence of Congress’s intent to use newspapers to print and disburse a government document.

Purdie’s patriotism is readily apparent in the newspaper masthead, where the Arms of Virginia include the famous phrase "Dont Tread on Me" and below the masthead is the subtitle "High Heaven to Gracious Ends directs the Storm!" On page two following the Declaration is the following report: "Williamsburg, July 26. Yesterday afternoon, agreeable to an order of the Hon. Privy Council, the Declaration of Independence was solemnly proclaimed at the Capitol, the Courthouse, and the Palace amidst the acclamations of the people, accompanied by firing cannons and musketry, the several regiments of continental troops having been paraded on that solemnity." Here we have an eyewitness report of the celebrations surrounding the publication of the Declaration of Independence, a celebration that has continued uninterrupted for over two hundred years.

Congress wrote the Declaration of Independence to be read by as wide an audience as possible. To this end, thirty newspapers in America printed it. The Library of Congress owns fifteen original copies of these printings. Reading the Declaration as it first appeared in newspapers brings it to life as a living contemporary document that directed the course of history in the United States and throughout the world. The promises to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness have yet to be achieved in much of the world, yet without these promises, would we have come as far as we have today? Keeping the Declaration of Independence fresh and alive in our hearts and minds will continue the spread of democracy. I hope that my sharing my discovery of the importance of studying the first printings of the Declaration of Independence in newspapers will inspire you as much as it has inspired me.

Transcript of video presentation by Robin Shields, Library of Congress


Transcript of Declaration of Independence excerpt from

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

New Hampshire:
Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton

John Hancock, Samuel Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry

Rhode Island:
Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery

Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott

New York:
William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris

New Jersey:
Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark

Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross

Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean

Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton

George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton

North Carolina:
William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn

South Carolina:
Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., Arthur Middleton

Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton


John Dunlap, American, b. Northern Ireland, (1747-1812)
b. 1747, Northern Ireland
d. 1812

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