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December 21, 2004

CW to display presidential signatures and "Stone" copy of the Declaration of Independence

Colonial Williamsburg will display 10 examples of signatures from signers of the Declaration of Independence and a rare 1823 "Stone" copy of the Declaration in :"Principles of Freedom: The Declaration of Independence and the American Revolution" from May 7, 2005 to February 2006 at the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum. Part of the Pat and Jerry B. Epstein American History Document Collection, this exceptional selection of objects comprises one of the most significant private collections of U.S. historical documents ever assembled. In 2002, Jerry and Pat Epstein of Los Angeles, Calif., gave the documents to Colonial Williamsburg, which conserved and stabilized them prior to display.

"Jerry and Pat Epstein's tremendous generosity and their lifelong appreciation of history have made it possible for Colonial Williamsburg to provide our guests with an unparalleled opportunity to view these historic treasures," said Ronald L. Hurst, Colonial Williamsburg's vice president of museums and collections and Carlisle H. Humelsine curator. "This outstanding collection clearly illustrates the very essence of how America's earliest leaders secured and preserved our core values and ideals."

The original parchment Declaration of Independence was on the move for several years after its creation in 1776 and until the end of the revolutionary war. During that period, it remained in the custody of the Continental Congress and traveled to locations in Pennsylvania, Maryland and New Jersey before coming to rest in Washington, D.C., in the safekeeping of the new federal governments established under the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution. In 1814, the evacuation of Washington once again required the temporary removal of the Declaration, this time to Leesburg, Va.

In 1820, then Secretary of State John Quincy Adams commissioned William J. Stone (1798-1865), a Washington-based engraver, to create an official facsimile of the Declaration, since the original parchment had become extremely fragile over the years from its myriad travels and repeated rolling and unrolling. Stone painstakingly engraved the text onto a copper plate and produced 201 parchment copies. Of these, only 31 have been located.
In addition to the Stone Declaration and documents bearing the signatures of the signers such as Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, "Principles of Freedom" will feature medals, currency, portraits and other patriotic objects from the Colonial Williamsburg collection.

The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation's award winning DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum, supported by the DeWitt Wallace Fund for Colonial Williamsburg, displays the foundation's exceptional collection of English and American decorative arts. Entered through the reconstructed Public Hospital of 1773, the museum is on Francis Street near Merchants Square and is open daily (11 a.m. to 5 p.m. January to mid-March and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. mid-March to January). Admission is included in any multi-day Colonial Williamsburg admission ticket or separate museums ticket. For program information call (757) 220-7724.

Media Contact:
Sophia Hart
(757) 220-7272