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An original copy of the Declaration of Independence inside a glass frame
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Libraries to Display Second Original Declaration of Independence From 1776

A few weeks ago, a large crate arrived at Washington University Libraries looking rather unremarkable even though it contained a significant piece of history: an original copy of the Declaration of Independence, printed between July 14 and 16 in 1776, by John Rogers in the shop of Ezekiel Russell, in Salem, Massachusetts. The copy, known as the Rogers Broadside, is on loan to the university for ten years. The owners, who wish to remain anonymous, are excited for the broadside to be used in research, teaching, and exhibitions so that students and visitors can view a piece of our country’s history.

The Declaration of Independence was first printed by John Dunlap on July 4, 1776, in Philadelphia. The Dunlap Broadside was dispatched to the newly proclaimed states and troops on the front lines to spread the news of independence. The broadside also served as a copy text for printers to create additional broadside editions and newspaper printings to help meet the demand for the information. Thirteen broadside editions were printed in July and August of 1776 and are considered original printings of the Declaration.

A copy of the Declaration of Independence inside a frame.
Known as the Rogers Broadside, this original copy of the Declaration of Independence was printed in Salem, Massachusetts, between July 14 and 16, 1776.

The Newman family donated the Southwick Broadside, printed by Solomon Southwick in Rhode Island, to the University Libraries in 2015 and it is on permanent display in the Declaration Chamber on the first floor of John M. Olin Library. Through December 2023, the Rogers Broadside will be displayed in the chamber case adjacent to the Southwick Broadside. Afterward, the Rogers Broadside will be accessible to classes and researchers at curatorial discretion.

The Rogers Broadside is the only of the thirteen original broadsides to be printed in four columns, as the same setting of type was used to print a newspaper edition distributed on July 16, 1776. While most broadside editions, including the Southwick Broadside, were printed by government decree, the Rogers Broadside was printed without government involvement and was meant for public consumption. It was also the first broadside printed in Massachusetts, with the official Massachusetts broadside printed by the same print shop shortly after.

The loan of the Rogers Broadside helps further contextualize the transmission of news before modern communication methods, showing how both newspapers and broadsides—single sheets printed on one side that were frequently hung in a town square to disseminate important information—worked in tandem to spread the word of independence.

Learn more about the Rogers Broadside on exhibition alongside the Southwick Broadside from June 30 through December 2023.