May 25, 1999 Library of Congress Displays Thomas Jefferson's Rough Draft of the Declaration of Independence

Press Contact: Yvonne French (202) 707-9191
Public Contact: Recorded announcement (202) 707-3834

We hold these truths to be [sacred & undeniable] self-evident, that all men are created equal [& independent] ...

The rough draft of the Declaration of Independence, in the hand of Thomas Jefferson with emendations by John Adams and Benjamin Franklin, will be on display in the "American Treasures of the Library of Congress" exhibition from June 16 through September 4.

Ultimately, 86 emendations were made to the document before it was adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776. Jefferson took his disgruntlement about some of the changes to his grave. The "original rough draught," as Jefferson later labeled it, will be displayed with other materials that reveal the process of creating the country's founding document, including a small fragment, also in Jefferson's handwriting, that predates the rough draft. On the back of the fragment is a description Jefferson made of a stable he saw in Philadelphia that was subsequently constructed at Monticello.

"These documents are prized among historians as a window into the thinking of one of the most enigmatic figures in American history," said Librarian of Congress James H. Billington.

A highlight tour, or "Treasure-Talk," on the rough draft will be given at noon June 16 by Manuscript Division historian Gerard Gawalt. The group will meet outside of the "American Treasures" exhibition on the second level of the Thomas Jefferson Building, located at 10 First St. S.E. Participants should expect to stand for the half-hour duration of the informal talk.

This is the third summer that the rough draft of the Declaration of Independence has been displayed in the permanent, rotating "American Treasures" exhibition, which features more than 270 items representing a cross section of the Library's vast repository of rare books, music, manuscripts, maps, photographs, drawings, audio clips and videotapes.

Items on display for the first time in "American Treasures" include:

  • Photographs taken in 1974, 1986 and 1992 of a working-class family from Buffalo's Lower West Side by documentary photographer Milton Rogovin An 1842 miniature prayer book published for Jews emigrating from German lands. In 1840-1860, the Jewish population of the United States grew from 15,000 to 45,000


  • The first issue of the first newspaper published by Native Americans, the Cherokee Phoenix, dated February 21, 1828


  • An 1880 catalog and price list of Shaker chairs


  • A dollar bill carried by Charles Lindbergh on his historic transatlantic flight from May 20-27, 1927, and inscribed: "This bill was carried on entire flight. Charles A. Lindbergh."


Continuing highlights of "American Treasures" include the contents of Abraham Lincoln's pockets on the night of his assassination, a photograph of the Wright brothers' first flight taken at the instant of takeoff and early comic books.

The exhibition is made possible by a generous grant from the Xerox Foundation.

The "American Treasures" exhibition is also available on-line at, where viewers can see 264 items and read about their significance to United States history.

Library curators offer "Treasure-Talks" about items within the exhibition every Wednesday at noon. To confirm the speaker and subject matter, consult the Library's Web site.

Harry N. Abrams Inc. has published a companion volume with an introduction by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Garry Wills and a foreword by Dr. Billington. American Treasures in the Library of Congress: Memory/Reason/Imagination ($39.95) is available in the Library sales shops and wherever books are sold.

A revised edition of the 1943 book The Evolution of the Text of the Declaration of Independence ($29.95) by Julian P. Boyd, edited by Mr. Gawalt, is being published by the Library of Congress in association with the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation Inc. It will be distributed by the University Press of New England in June and will be available in the Library sales shops and wherever books are sold. Credit card orders will be taken at (202) 707-0204.

Exhibition hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday. The Library is closed on federal holidays. The exhibition is free. Tickets are not required.

Groups of 10 or more are requested to call the Visitor Services Office at (202) 707-9779 to arrange a tour. For recorded information about the exhibition, call (202) 707-3834, (202) 707- 6200 TTY.

Note to press: slides and prints of Thomas Jefferson's rough draft of the Declaration of Independence and other selected items are available from the Public Affairs Office. Call (202) 707-9191 for delivery of duplicates.


PR 99-076
ISSN 0731-3527