On July 4, Americans celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

The Declaration was officially adopted by the Continental Congress in Philadelphia on July 4, 1776, although Congress formally declared independence from Great Britain on July 2, and the Declaration wasn’t signed by all 56 members until August.

Some other facts about the founding document of the United States that you may not know:


  • There’s a message on the back. No, it’s not an invisible treasure map (as in the Nicolas Cage movie National Treasure). The words “Original Declaration of Independence, dated 4th July 1776” appear on the reverse side of the document on display in the National Rotunda, at the bottom and upside down.
  • About 200 copies of the Declaration were immediately produced by printer John Dunlap for distribution through the 13 colonies. Of these original “Dunlap broadsides,” 26 still exist.
  • The original document wasn’t printed on paper but “engrossed” on parchment. Engrossing is a process for preparing an official document in large, clear handwriting.
  • At the bottom left corner of the Declaration is an unidentified handprint. Historians speculate that it’s the result of the document’s being rolled up for transport and handled by various people for extensive exhibition in the early years of its existence.
  • The two youngest signers of the Declaration were Thomas Lynch Jr. and Edward Rutledge, both of South Carolina, both 26 years old at the time. The oldest signer was Benjamin Franklin, 70. Nine of the original signers died before the American Revolution ended in 1783.

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