MHS for the Media


Exhibition features original printing of the Declaration of Independence and letters written by John Adams and Abigail Adams

John Adams letter to Abigail Adams July 3, 1776On July 2, 1776, the Continental Congress resolved "That these United Colonies are, and of right, ought to be, Free and Independent States." In a letter written to Abigail Adams on July 3, 1776, John Adams reflected on the event and summed up what it meant for Americans of his own time and in the future. He writes that the day will be celebrated with, "Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other." Adams seems to have understood more clearly than any other member of the Continental Congress the momentous importance of the vote for independence on July 2, 1776 and how it should be celebrated. He was right about everything except the date. On July 2, in celebration of America's independence, the MHS will open an exhibition of letters and documents celebrating this important moment in United States history. The exhibition will be on display through August 31. 

The exhibition showcases national treasures including one of the first printings of the Declaration of Independence, Abigail Adams’ most celebrated letter to her husband in which she urges him to "Remember the ladies," and the letter John Adams writes to his wife describing his reaction to the vote for independence. This letter is the cornerstone of the exhibition. Adams writes, “The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival.”

Among the highlights of the exhibition are John Adams’ and Thomas Jefferson's handwritten copies of the Declaration of Independence. Also on display is one of only 25 known copies of the first Dunlap printing of the Declaration. On July 4, 1776, the committee that had drafted the Declaration of Independence presented their corrected and approved text to the printing shop of John Dunlap. He printed a limited number of copies that were carried to the army, as well as to the cities and towns of the newly declared United States.

Independence was publically proclaimed in Philadelphia on July 8, 1776, in New York on July 9, 1776, and in Boston on July 18, 1776. Featured in the exhibition is a letter Abigail Adams wrote to her husband on July 21, 1776, in which she describes hearing the Declaration of Independence read in Boston. “Last Thursday after hearing a very Good Sermon I went with the Multitude into Kings Street to hear the proclamation for independance read and proclamed.” She continues, “As soon as he ended, the cry from the Belcona, was God Save our American States and then 3 cheers which rended the air, the Bells rang, the privateers fired, the forts and Batteries, the cannon were discharged, the platoons followed and every face appeard joyfull.”

Additional Information
To complement the exhibition, the Society will present two gallery talks. On July 2 at 10:00 AM and 2:00 PM, Stephen T. Riley Librarian Peter Drummey will talk about the exhibition and explain why John Adams believed July 2, 1776 would be the most memorable day in the history of America. The talks are free and open to the public.