Object of the Month

Declaration of Independence

State Street, 1801 [this painting was previously called, Old State House].
Oil on panel by James Brown Marston, 1801.
Detail showing the balcony of the Old State House, from
which the Declaration of Independence was first read
to Bostonians, July 18, 1776.

"18 July Thursday very Pleasant W[ind] W[est] This day Independency was Declard in Boston from the Balcony of the Council Chamber—, I dind at home with Mrs Rowe & Spent the Evening at home with Jno Haskins Richd Greene, Major Chase & Mrs Rowe a Great Confusion in Town—"

Independence Declared in Boston

In this diary entry, Boston merchant John Rowe describes the first reading of the Declaration of Independence in Boston. The Continental Congress, meeting in Philadelphia, voted to declare independence from Great Britain on July 2, 1776. On July 4, Congress approved the text of the official Declaration of Independence and sent it John Dunlap, a Philadelphia printer, who worked through the night printing copies to distribute.

Word spread outward to the colonies at the speed of horsepower: in his diary entry for July 13, Rowe records that he heard that "Independency was declard the 4th Instant at Philadelphia." On July 18, Col. Thomas Crafts read the Declaration from the balcony of the State House in Boston. Many of city's citizens gathered in King Street to hear the proclamation. Abigail Adams, who was present in the crowd, described the scene in a letter to her husband: "Great attention was given to every word. As soon as [Crafts] ended, the cry from the balcony was 'God save our American States' and then three cheers which rent the air."

View John Rowe's diary entry in his own handwriting


Top