Virginia delegate Richard Henry Lee puts forward a resolution that "all political connection is, and ought to be, dissolved" between Great Britain and the Colonies. Congress then nominates a drafting committee to compose a declaration of independence. Named the "Committee of Five," it included John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Robert Livingston, and Roger Sherman. Jefferson is chosen to draft the document.

Podcast - The Declaration and the Committee of Five

A fair copy of the committee draft of the Declaration of Independence is read in Congress. Congress debates and revises the Declaration of Independence. (Pictured: Jefferson's "rough Draught" of the Declaration)

The Continental Congress votes for independence as the British fleet and army arrive at New York.

Congress adopts the Declaration of Independence. Only John Hancock. President 0f the Continental Congress, and Charles Thomson, Secretary of the Congress, sign the original document.

John Dunlap prints the Declaration of Independence throughout the evening of July 4th and through the day on July 5th. These prints, now called "Dunlap Broadsides," are the first versions of the Declaration seen by citizens of the new nation outside of the Continental Congress. Only 26 copies are known to exist today.

General George Washington orders the Declaration of Independence read before the Continental Army in New York -- from his personal copy of the "Dunlap Broadside."

Congress orders the Declaration of Independence engrossed (officially inscribed) and signed by members. The scribe of this official copy of the Declaration was probably Timothy Matlock.

The Dunlap Broadsides sent to King George III and Parliament arrive in Britain. Translated texts of the Declaration of Independence soon appear in print throughout Europe and eventually around the globe.

Congress, now sitting in Baltimore, Maryland, signed copies of the Declaration of Independence printed by Mary Katherine Goddard of Baltimore to be sent to the states. These copies became known as "Goddard Broadsides." Only 9 are known to exist today.

Benjamin Owen Tyler raced with another engraver, John Binns, to produce a new engraving of the Declaration. Both Tyler and Binns asked for "subscriptions, " which are promises to purchase copies, to pay for their work. Both Binns and Tyler received orders from Thomas Jefferson. Tyler beat out Binns to press and dedicated his version to Jefferson. The list of other subscribers for Tyler's version -- including former president James Madison, future president John Quincy Adams, future vice president and senator John Calhoun, and then-former congressman Henry Clay -- speaks to the popularity of the subscription drives.

Encyclopedia article on the Tyler version of the Declaration

Philadelphia newspaper publisher John Binns produces an ornate engraving of the Declaration of Independence. Thomas Sully, who later painted an iconic portrait of Jefferson in retirement at Monticello, is among the five artists hired by Binns to create the decorative flourishes.

More on this version of the Declaration

In 1820, Secretary of State John Quincy Adams commissions engraver William J. Stone to produce an official copy of the engrossed Declaration. After three years of effort, Stone's copperplate facsimile -- first printed in 1823 and now known as the "Stone Declaration" -- becomes the iconic image that Americans recognize from their history books.

« Back to the Declaration of Independence Exhibit at Monticello
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Traveling Declaration

Only in the last 70 years has the original, engrossed version of the Declaration been on view in the National Archives. Before that it was on display, stored, and moved many times and even toured the country - in 1947-1949 and  1975-1976 - on two Freedom Trains.

Philadelphia: August-December 1776
Baltimore: December 1776-March 1777
Philadelphia: March-September 1777
Lancaster, PA: September 27, 1777
York, PA: September 30, 1777-June 1778
Philadelphia: July 1778-June 1783
Princeton, NJ: June-November 1783
Annapolis, MD: November 1783-October 1784
Trenton, NJ: November-December 1784
New York City: 1785-1790
Philadelphia: 1790-1800
Washington, DC (three locations): 1800-1814
Leesburg, VA: August-September 1814
Washington, DC (three locations): 1814-1841
Washington, DC (Patent Office Building): 1841-1876
Philadelphia: May-November 1876
Washington, DC (State, War, and Navy Building): 1877-1921
Washington, DC (Library of Congress): 1921-1941
Fort Knox*: 1941-1944
Washington, DC (Library of Congress): 1944-1952
Washington, DC (National Archives): 1952-present

*The document was displayed on April 13, 1943, at the dedication of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial in Washington, DC