Declaring Independence

What is the Dunlap Broadside?

The Dunlap Broadside is the first printed copy of the Declaration of Independence. The term broadside is used for a poster-sized piece of paper.

Why is the Dunlap Broadside significant?

Before a handwritten copy of the Declaration of Independence was signed by the members of Congress, the Second Continental Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia decided a document was needed that declared independence against England. This document was approved by Congress on July 2, 1776 and sent to be type set and printed by John Dunlap of Philadelphia, hence the name Dunlap Broadside. It is estimated that Dunlap printed 150-200 copies; one was entered into the Congressional Journal, one was sent over to England, and the rest were sent out to the colonies to be read to the public.

The American Independence Museum has the 23rd copy of 26 known Dunlap Broadsides still in existence.

John Dunlap

John Dunlap was born in Ireland in 1747. In 1757, when he was 10 years old, he was apprenticed to his uncle, William Dunlap, a printer and publishers in Philadelphia. By the time John was eighteen he entered into the printing business.

Though it was in his shop that the first broadside of the Declaration of Independence was printed, John did not become the official printer for the Continental Congress until 1778. He, and his partner David Claypoole, were the printers for the Constitution of the United States for the use of the Constitutional Convention, and later published it for the first time in the Pennsylvania Packet.

Exeter Hears the News

A Dunlap Broadside copy of the Declaration of Independence arrived in Exeter on July 16, 1776 and was read to the townspeople by 22-year-old John Taylor Gilman on the steps of the Town Hall.

This was three full days prior to when the officially inscribed copy was ordered to be created.

What did it take for John Taylor to stand in public and read this Declaration in direct defiance of the King?

Relive this Moment in History

The American Independence Museum recreates the historic moment when John Taylor Gilman read the infamous words aloud to the townspeople of Exeter each year, at the American Independence Festival. We invite you to be a part of this history, and join us for this day.

Watch the Broadside arrive on horseback, hear the words read aloud by John Taylor Gilman and stand adjacent to a Loyalist heckler. Afterwards, visit our Museum to see one of only 26 surviving Broadsides in our Ladd-Gilman House.