Hundreds view history with awe, respect
America’s ‘birth certificate’ stops here on national tour
Wendy Williams brought her children in from Cordova to see it.
Ron Reid took a late lunch so he could pay his respects. Vann Bailey did the same.
They and hundreds of others con- verged on the Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library to see what many call the nation’s “birth certificate.”
One of the original copies of the Declaration of Independence was on display in Memphis for a few hours Wednesday afternoon.
It’s part of a nationwide tour sponsored by Declare Yourself, a nonprofit organization, and the Cricket wireless company.
The goal: to encourage people, especially young Americans, to take part in the political process.
“It’s showing (people) the birth certificate of the country, letting them see it,” said Declare Yourself’s Brent Miller, on tour with the document.
“It’s having it come to them instead of having to go see it in an institution.”
That’s what brought Williams and her children to the library.
“This is once in a lifetime,” she said, wanting to show Avery, 5, and Carter,
8, that “the Fourth of July is not just fireworks.”
The children seemed to enjoy the display, even if they weren’t certain what all the hoopla was about.
Carter, for example, knew that the Declaration had “a lot of words on it ,” although he thought “the paper’s going to be wrinkled, since it’s so old.”
But when he walked up to the display, Carter saw that the paper is in much better condition than one might expect for a piece of parchment that’s 232 years old. “It’s cool,” Avery said. Reid was also shocked at the Declaration’s condition.
“I thought, ‘Wait a minute, that can’t be that old,’ ” he said. “It was moving. That’s about the only thing I could say.”
According to various published reports, this copy of the Declaration was found in 1989 by a Philadelphia man visiting a flea market in Adamstown, Pa.
For $4, the man — he has never been identified but has been called a financial analyst — bought a painting. At some point afterward, he discovered the Declaration hidden inside the picture frame. Some have speculated that it was hidden there so many years ago to protect it from the British.
According to experts, it was a copy of what is called the “Dunlop Broadside,” just the 25th known to still exist.
After the original Declaration was signed by the 56 representatives to the Second Continental Congress, Philadelphia printer John Dunlap hurriedly pressed a few hundred printings of the document on July 4, 1776.
Many of the copies were rushed throughout the original colonies to be read to the people. Virtually all are thought to have been lost or destroyed, and of the 25 that remain, most are in libraries or institutions.
Television producer Norman Lear bought this copy at auction in 2000, paying $8.14 million. He then launched a series of nationwide tours to let people see the Declaration.
This is the second time it has been to Memphis, having been on display for a day at Memphis University School in 2004.
Victor Smith wasn’t even aware that the Declaration was at the library Wednesday until he walked in. He quickly left to get his son.
“It’s a document, man, that has so much power,” he said. “It was a powerful document then and it’s a powerful document now.”
This 1776 copy of the Declaration of Independence was inside a picture frame bought at a flea market for $4. TV mogul Norman Lear bought it at auction for $8.14 million.