Crystal Bridges to Host Historical Documents Exhibit - Including an Original Declaration Of Independence Broadside

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Crystal Bridges to Show Rare Version of Declaration of Independence

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Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art on Thursday announced plans to exhibit rare early American documents, including "one of only 25 known existing copies of the printed broadside version of the Declaration of Independence."

This temporary exhibit at the Bentonville museum is scheduled for June 30 through Sept. 3.

"The broadside was like the radio or internet of its time," David Houston, director of curatorial at Crystal Bridges, said in a museum statement. "It was the fastest, most technologically advanced method available of disseminating information during colonial times. Broadsides were sent to each of the colonies, and read aloud in public along the way for everyone to hear. It was the closest thing they had to mass communication."

"On the evening of July 4, 1776, the text of the newly penned Declaration of Independence was typeset in the Philadelphia printing shop of John Dunlap and 200 large-format 'broadside' copies were printed," the museum said. "These were rapidly distributed throughout the colonies to inform them of their new independence.

"Though it is not the famous hand-written version of the Declaration, and bears no signatures, the Dunlap Broadside was, in fact, the first published Declaration of Independence to be distributed to the colonies. The 'official' handwritten document, which is on permanent view in the National Archives in Washington, D.C., was probably not signed until August, 1776."

The documents, on loan from a private collection, will include other printed materials related to the American Revolution. Among them:

  • Two printed newspaper accounts from 1776.
  • A handwritten letter from King George III to his generals.
  • A printed edition of the Virginia Bill of Rights.
  • An American broadside description of the Battle of Bunker Hill.
  • And the Franklin printing of the Treaty of Paris, which ended the war between England and the United States.


No special tickets are required, the museum said, and viewing the exhibit, "Declaration: Birth of America," is free. But space is limited in the exhibition area, and admission is on a first-come, first-served basis.

Members of Crystal Bridges will receive a special preview of the exhibition from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. June 29. For information on becoming an original member of Crystal Bridges, visit