The Nantucket Historical Association (NHA) is pleased to announce the recent acquisition of an 1833 engraved facsimile copy of the Declaration of Independence as a gift from David M. Rubenstein, a nationally-renowned philanthropist and history enthusiast. It will be on display in the Overlook Gallery at the Whaling Museum, 13 Broad Street, beginning Saturday, July 4, 2015.
In 1820, John Quincy Adams noticed that the original Declaration of Independence was deteriorating and suggested creating duplicate copies to preserve the document for years to come. With Congressional approval, he commissioned engraver William J. Stone to create a facsimile. It took Stone three years to finish the copperplate engraving, in which the image of the original embossed Declaration was cut into a surface with carved lines or sunken areas holding the ink for printing. Two hundred and one copies were printed on vellum and distributed to the surviving signers of the original document, current and former presidents and vice presidents, governors, and educational institutions, among others. Just over a quarter of these vellum prints are known to have survived.
The plate was then used in 1833 to print a second edition on paper (instead of vellum) for inclusion in historian Peter Force’s American Archives: A Documentary History of the United States of America. The NHA’s recent acquisition is one of these paper copies.
More Americans have seen Stone’s facsimile of the Declaration than have seen the original document itself. The original is so faded, that many details on it can now only be interpreted through comparison with Stone’s copy.
David M. Rubenstein is the co-founder and co-CEO of The Carlyle Group, one of the world’s largest private equity firms. A native of Baltimore, Rubenstein attended Duke University as well as The University of Chicago Law School. In addition to practicing law, he was the Deputy Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy during the Carter administration prior to co-founding The Carlyle Group in 1987. A noted philanthropist, he serves on the board of numerous charitable organizations and has provided significant funding to preserve some of America’s most treasured sites, including the Washington Monument, the National Zoo, Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, and more. He has a particular interest in securing historic documents, and has purchased copies of the Emancipation Proclamation, Magna Carta, and the first news printing of the Declaration of Independence, which he often loans to museums and other public institutions.
NHA Gosnell Executive Director Bill Tramposch adds, “The NHA has had the pleasure of working with David Rubenstein in various capacities in the past few years. Rubenstein spoke at the NHA Annual Meeting in July 2013, and delighted audiences with samples from his collection of iconic historic documents. This copy of the Declaration of Independence is a way of recognizing David Rubenstein’s eleemosynary spirit.”