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The New York Public Library to Display Historic Copy of the Declaration of Independence Written in Thomas Jefferson’s Hand


Free display will be view from June 27 to July 3 at the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building

JUNE 23 – The New York Public Library will display a rare historic copy of the Declaration of Independence -- written in Thomas Jefferson’s hand – from June 27 to July 3.

The free public display to celebrate Independence Day will be held in the Celeste Bartos Forum of the Library’s landmark Stephen A. Schwarzman Building on Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street.

Hours for the display will be as follows:

Friday, June 27: 10 a.m. to 5:45 p.m.

Saturday, June 28: 10 a.m. to 5:45 p.m.

Sunday, June 29: 1 to 4:45 p.m.

Monday, June 30: 10 a.m. to 7:45 p.m.

Tuesday, July 1: 10 a.m. to 7:45 p.m.

Wednesday, July 2: 2 to 10 p.m.

Thursday, July 3: 10 a.m. to 5:45 p.m.

The Declaration of Independence was completed on July 1, but before it was ratified on July 4, several changes were made to the text, including the removal of Jefferson’s lengthy condemnation of the slave trade, 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 this treasure in 1896, when John S. Kennedy – a trustee of The New York Public Library – donated them 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.

Some facts about the Library’s manuscript copy of the Declaration of Independence include:

  • The document is a handwritten copy by Thomas Jefferson, the primary author of the Declaration.
  • In the Library’s copy, Jefferson has underlined the words and passages that were excised from the final text.
  • It has been suggested, although never proved, that the Library’s copy is the one Jefferson sent to his former law professor and mentor, George Wythe.
  • The Library’s copy of the Declaration is also sometimes referred to as the “Cassius Lee Copy,” since its ownership has been traced back to Cassius F. Lee of Alexandria, Virginia.
  • The document consists of handmade laid paper written on both sides; it measures 12 5/8 inches high by 7 7/8 inches wide. The manuscript is written in iron gall ink.

The document will be the centerpiece of a naturalization ceremony taking place at the Library at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, July 2. Days before the nation's birthday, 150 immigrants from 46 countries will become United States citizens in the Bartos Forum, in front of their friends and family and one  of the founding documents  of the country. New York Lt. Governor Robert Duffy will give the keynote, and Secretary of State Cesar Perales will lead the Pledge of Allegiance. The ceremony is being conducted by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, and the oath will be administered by the agency's District 3 Director Phyllis Coven.

"It is appropriate and poetic that these new Americans receive their citizenship at The New York Public Library, which for over 100 years has offered free access to knowledge and opportunity - the foundations of our democracy of informed citizens," said NYPL President Tony Marx. 

TD Bank is the Lead Sponsor of The New York Public Library's 2014 flash displays.

Support for The New York Public Library’s Exhibitions Program has been provided by Celeste Bartos, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, Mahnaz Ispahani Bartos and Adam Bartos Exhibitions Fund, and Jonathan Altman. 


Contact: Angela Montefinise | 212.592.7506 |


About The New York Public Library

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