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The Declaration of Independence, Handwritten by Thomas Jefferson

The New York Public Library holds in its vast collections one of the rarest and most important documents in American history: an original manuscript of the Declaration of Independence handwritten by Founding Father Thomas Jefferson. In addition to being a cornerstone of our country, the Declaration of Independence is one of the great documents of the human intellect and has formed the foundation of democratic movements for more than two centuries.

The Declaration of Independence was completed on July 1, but before it was ratified on July 4, several changes were made to the text. A lengthy condemnation of the slave trade was removed, for example—an excision intended to appease delegates from Georgia and South Carolina. In the days after July 4, a distressed Jefferson wrote out several fair copies of his original text and sent them to five or six friends. The Library’s copy is one of the two copies that have survived intact.

The Library acquired its copy in 1896, when John S. Kennedy—a trustee of The New York Public Library—donated it along with other items he purchased from Dr. Thomas Addis Emmet, a noted surgeon and collector of Americana. The document is now held in the Library’s renowned Manuscripts and Archives Division.

In celebration of the birth of the United States and the democratic values upon which it was founded, the Library is honored to share this renowned historical treasure with Library visitors for a limited time. All are welcome.

The Declaration of Independence manuscript will be on display in Gottesman Hall. Please note that the display closes at 5 PM, one hour before the building closes.

  • Thursday, June 29 | 10 AM–5 PM
  • Friday, June 30 | 10 AM–5 PM
  • Saturday, July 1 | 10 AM–5 PM
  • Monday, July 3 | 10 AM–5 PM  

June 29th, 2017 - July 3rd, 2017 Stephen A. Schwarzman Building