Six Original Drafts of the United States Constitution on Display

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Six Original Drafts of the United States Constitution on Display

Friday, August 20, 2010

These national treasures are coming out of the vault for one day only on Constitution Day

The Historical Society of Pennsylvania holds several versions of the United States Constitution, including the earliest surviving draft handwritten by Constitutional Convention delegate James Wilson and the first newspaper printing by The Pennsylvania Packet. On Constitution Day on September 17, HSP will bring six original versions out of the vault and display them in its library, so visitors can see the evolution of this national treasure.

During the special one-day exhibit, called “Constitution: On Display,” visitors are invited to view and read these extraordinary documents. The Constitutions will be on display from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania at 1300 Locust Street in Philadelphia. Reservations are not necessary. There is no fee; however, visitors are encouraged to make a donation. All proceeds will go toward the care and conservation of the 21 million historic documents held at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

Visitors will be able to see six original copies of the U. S. Constitution, including:

·         The earliest surviving version handwritten in 1787 by James Wilson, a Pennsylvania delegate to the Constitutional Convention

·         A second draft also written in Wilson’s hand

·         A printed draft that belonged to Virginia delegate Edmund Randolph

·         A second printed draft that belonged to Delaware delegate Jacob Broom

·         The official edition of the Constitution printed by Dunlap & Claypoole

·         The first public printing from The Pennsylvania Packet on September 19, 1787

“It is very unusual to have all six of these documents on display side by side,” said Lee Arnold, senior director of the library and collections. “They are usually stored in the Historical Society’s vault and rarely brought out in public. We are unable to display them frequently because of the documents’ age and sensitivity to light and temperature.”

When visitors look at the Constitutions side by side, they can see how the document evolved and changed. For example, in the earliest handwritten draft, the document begins with the words: “We the People of the States of New Hampshire, Massachusetts….” That sentence was later changed to “We the People of the United States….”

In addition to the on-site display, each document will be digitized and available on HSP’s website at beginning in mid-September.

Media are welcome to attend the one-day exhibit or schedule a preview tour in advance of the event. For high-quality images suitable for publication or for more information about “Constitution: On Display,” please contact Lauri Cielo, director of programs and communications, at 215-732-6200 ext. 233 or

Event details:

WHEN: Constitution Day, Friday September 17, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

WHERE:  Historical Society of Pennsylvania, 1300 Locust Street, Philadelphia, PA

ADMISSION: Pay what you wish