Declaration of Independence (1776)

One of the many valuable moments I had when I was the Post Production Supervisor at The National Archives in Washington DC, was learning that the Declaration of Independence was not signed on July 4th, 1776. - Richard Taylor

One of the most widely held misconceptions about the Declaration of Independence is that it was signed on July 4, 1776, by all the delegates in attendance.

“The Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776.

It was engrossed on parchment and on August 2, 1776, delegates began signing it.”

Declaring Independence

On July 2, 1776, Congress voted to declare independence.

Two days later, it ratified the text of the Declaration.

After the Declaration had been adopted by 12 of the 13 Colonies (New York not voting), the "Committee of Five" took to John Dunlap (official printer to Congress) the manuscript document (possibly Thomas Jefferson's "fair copy" of his rough draft).  Dunlap worked through the night of July 4/5 to set the Declaration in type and print approximately 200 copies. These "Dunlap Broadsides" (as they are now called) were distributed to various assemblies, conventions, and committees of safety as well as to the commanders of Continental troops.

The Dunlap Broadsides were not signed, but John Hancock’s name appears in large type at the bottom.

On July 9 the action of Congress was officially approved by the New York Convention and it became unanimous. On July 19th, Congress ordered that the Declaration be engrossed on parchment with a new title, "The Unanimous Declaration Of The Thirteen United States Of America" and "that the same, when engrossed, be signed by every member of Congress."

Engrossing is the process of copying an official document in a large hand.

The engrosser of the Declaration was probably Timothy Matlock.

This engrossed Declaration of Independence was signed by most of the delegates on

August 2nd, 1776.

“On August 2nd John Hancock, the President of the Congress, signed the engrossed copy with a bold signature. The other delegates, following custom, signed beginning at the right with the signatures arranged by states from northernmost New Hampshire to southernmost Georgia.”

Sources from the National Archives

The Declaration of Independence: A History

Declaration of Independence (1776)

The Declaration of Independence: How Did it Happen?