About this Collection
Contains 277 documents relating to the work of Congress and the drafting and ratification of the Constitution. Items include extracts of the journals of Congress, resolutions, proclamations, committee reports, treaties, and early printed versions of the United States Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. Most broadsides are one page in length; others range from 1 to 28 pages. A number of these items contain manuscript annotations not recorded elsewhere that offer insight into the delicate process of creating consensus. In many cases, multiple copies bearing manuscript annotations are available to compare and contrast.
The Broadside Collection in the Rare Book Division of the Library of Congress consists of approximately 40,000 items dating from 1527 to the present but predominantly featuring 18th- and 19th-century Americana. Most of the 18th-century items were preserved because of the foresight of Ebenezer Hazard and Peter Force. Hazard was a historian and collector of papers relating to the European settlements in North America. Force, a historian and collector, published American Archives, a compilation of early American documents from 1774-76. Force acquired parts of Hazard's collection to add to his library. The Library of Congress purchased the Peter Force Library in 1867, establishing its first major collections of 18th-century American newspapers, incunabula, early American imprints, manuscripts, and rare maps and atlases. Complementing the Continental Congress and Constitutional Convention Broadside Collections are at least 2,000 additional items dating from 1774 to 1789 that include proceedings and proclamations of state and local governmental bodies, public notices, petitions, and polemic essays, as well as proceedings of various British offices relating to America.
This online collection, one of the earliest in American Memory, was first released in 1995 with bitonal images scanned from microfilm. The Library of Congress upgraded this collection in 2005 by providing access to full color scans of the original, for at least one copy of each broadside. In some cases, duplicate copies bearing manuscript annotations exist in the collection. The Library scanned these distinctive copies and is making them accessible as part of the collection upgrade.
What is a Broadside?
A broadside, or broadsheet, is a large sheet of paper, usually printed only on one side. This format is often used for rapid distribution of time-dated ephemeral information and is intended to be read and shared or thrown away. Especially popular in the 18th-century, the broadside format was used for a variety of purposes, including official notices, proclamations, petitions, playbills, news extras, and advertisements. Broadsides were posted in town halls and coffee houses, read in churches and public meetings, and often reprinted or excerpted in local newspapers.
The Continental Congress Broadside Collection
The Continental Congress Broadside Collection, consisting of 256 titles, includes material relating to the work of Congress, dating from 1774 to 1788. Items are predominantly extracts of the journals of Congress, resolutions, committee reports, proclamations, treaties, and other congressional proceedings. These broadsides provide a significant supplement to the Journals of the Continental Congress. Some of the broadsides trace the evolution of congressional measures at specific stages of consideration and differ significantly from the modified resolutions finally adopted by Congress. Some items contain manuscript annotations not recorded elsewhere that offer insight into the delicate process of creating consensus. In many cases, multiple copies bearing manuscript annotations are available to compare and contrast. Not every major topic considered by Congress is represented by this collection; the bulk of the material dates from 1781 to 1788.
Most of the items in the collection are composed of a single sheet, meeting the classic definition of a broadside. Some items, however, range in length to 28 pages. All of these broadsides, many of which were acquired in 1867 from Peter Force--historian, collector, and compiler of American Archives--are in the Rare Book and Special Collections Division, with the exception of one broadside, which is in the Manuscript Division.
The Constitutional Convention Broadside Collection
The Constitutional Convention Broadside Collection (21 titles) dates from 1786 to 1789 and includes documents relating to the Constitutional Convention of 1787, extracts of proceedings of state assemblies and conventions relating to the ratification of the Constitution, and several essays on ratification.
Most of the items in the collections are composed of a single sheet, meeting the classic definition of a broadside. Some items, however, range in length to twenty-eight pages. All of these broadsides, many of which were acquired in 1867 from Peter Force, are in the Rare Book and Special Collections Division, with the exception of one broadside, which is in the Manuscript Division.