Richmond, VA—On Saturday, October 24, from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., the Virginia Historical Society (VHS) will display one of only twenty-six known original printed copies of the Declaration of Independence. The document—coming to Virginia thanks to the Pearson Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Pearson, the global leader in education and education technology—is one of close to 200 broadsides [large posters] created from Thomas Jefferson’s original draft by twenty-nine-year-old print shop owner John Dunlap. Ordered by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, Dunlap’s printed copies of the Declaration of Independence were distributed the next day to the thirteen states, King George in England, and George Washington to be read to the soldiers of the Continental Army.
“This is an amazing opportunity for our community because this Dunlap broadside is the only traveling copy of the Declaration of Independence and has never before been on display in Virginia,” Paul A. Levengood, VHS President and CEO, said. “We want as many people as possible to be able to view the document, which is why the Society is offering free admission all day on October 24th while it is on display.”
Until 1989, only twenty-four of Dunlap’s broadsides were known to have survived. That year, a man purchased a framed painting in a Philadelphia flea market for $4. Upon examining a tear in the back of the painting, he discovered the copy of the Declaration of Independence, which is in excellent condition.
Once authenticated, the broadside—the 25th known copy—was put up for auction. It was purchased by Norman Lear and his wife Lyn for $8.1 million. The Lears established a nonprofit company, Declare Yourself, to travel the document around the country. Declare Yourself is a national, nonpartisan, not-for-profit campaign to energize and empower every young person in America to register and vote.
“Seeing the Declaration of Independence firsthand enables Virginians to engage in a unique and exciting way with a piece of history that is the foundation of our nation, helping to build their community and civic awareness,” Pearson’s Vice President Riley Wade said. “Pearson believes that by bringing this document to students and to the community, we can help education come alive as people learn about the history of our country.”
Pearson, in conjunction with Declare Yourself, is sponsoring other Declaration of Independence events in the Commonwealth, including Monticello on October 21, the Meyera E. Oberndorf Central Library in Virginia Beach on October 22, and the Virginia Council for the Social Studies annual meeting at the Richmond Convention Center on October 23.
“As educators, we are honored to travel to districts around the country, providing students with the rare opportunity to see, and not just read about, this important document,” said Mark Nieker, President of the Pearson Foundation. “It’s especially gratifying to get the chance to bring the Declaration to Virginia, where it was created.”
“We are grateful to organizations like Declare Yourself and Pearson that place such a high value on getting this historic document in front of citizens all across this nation,” Levengood added. “Like the VHS, these groups are inspired by history and share in our mission to collect, preserve, and interpret the past for the education and enjoyment of present and future generations.”