Monday, July 4, 2016

4th of July - Before 24/7 cable news, how & when did colonists learn of the Declaration of Independence?


In the days before 24/7 news television & instant worldwide social networking, and even before electricity & telephones, how did colonists learn of the Declaration of Independence?  Even though newspapers began to print the text of the declaration, many colonists still could not read.


John Nixon reading the Declaration of Independence to the people in front of the State House immediately after its passage.

Public readings the Declaration were the answer. These readings constituted America's 1st celebrations of the Fourth of July. These gatherings brought the colonist's past frustrations with England to the minds of those listening, & emotions ran high.   In small towns & big cities across the nation accompanying the oral declarations were loud shouts, huzzas, firings of muskets, and, often, the tearing down of the British emblems.



Reading the Declaration of Indpendence to the people on July 8, 1776

Occasionally these readings became a little boisterous. In Baltimore on July 29, the town was illuminated and "the Effigy of our late King was carted through the town and committed to the flames amidst the acclamations of many hundreds. The just reward of a Tyrant."



The Declaration of Independence was printed during the late afternoon on Thursday, July 4, by John Dunlap, a local Philadelphia printer.
Congress ordered that copies be sent "to the several Assemblies, Conventions, and Committees or Councils of Safety, and to the several Commanding officers of the Continental Troops, that it be proclaimed in each of the United States, and at the head of the Army."


The Declaration of Independence was officially proclaimed in New York City on July 18. Harper's Weekly 1870  "The Declaration of Independence was officially proclaimed in New York City on July 18. A newspaper described the scene on Wall Street, "…True Friends to the Rights and Liberties of this Country attended and signified their Approbation to it by loud Acclamations. After which the Coat of arms of his Majesty George III was tore to Pieces and burnt…"

By the next morning copies were on their way to all 13 states by horseback.  On July 5 the German Pennsylvanischer Staatsbote, published by Heinrich Miller, became the new nations's first newspaper to announce that the Declaration had been adopted.  On Saturday, July 6, the first newspaper print edition of the full text of the Declaration appeared in the Philadelphia Evening Post.


Events leading up to the Declaration of Independence - 1607  History of the United States of America by C. B. Taylor, published in 1834.

On Monday, July 8, the Declaration of Independence was "proclaimed" (read aloud) by Col. John Nixon of the Philadelphia Committee of Safety at the State House in Philadelphia. It was also read again that evening before the militia on the Commons. Throughout Philadelphia, bells rang all day.

On July 8, 1776 the Declaration of Independence was read for all to hear in...

~Philadelphia.  Reported in "How the Declaration Was Received," New York Times, 4 July 1871, 2; Charles D. Deshler, "How the Declaration Was Received in the Old Thirteen," Harper's New Monthly Magazine LXXXV (July 1892).

~Trenton, N.J.  Reported in Virginia Gazette, 26 July 1776; Maryland Gazette, 25 July 1776; New York Times, 4 July 1871, 2.

~Easton, Pa.  Reported in Pennsylvania Post, 11 July 1876; Maryland Journal, 17 July 1776; New-England Chronicle, 25 July 1776.

On July 9, 1776 the Declaration of Independence was read for all to hear in...

~New York City.  Reported in James Munves, Thomas Jefferson and the Declaration of Independence (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons,1978),122; "The Declaration of Independence" ("First Reading of the Declaration of Independence in New York"), Harper's Weekly, 9 July 1870.

~Princeton, N.J.  Reported in Pennsylvania Evening Post, 13 July 1776; New-York Journal, 18 July 1776; Connecticut Courant, 22 July 1776; Connecticut Gazette, 26 July 1776; Boston Gazette, 29 July 1776; The Scots Magazine (August 1776).


Events leading up to the Declaration of Independence 1620  History of the United States of America by C. B. Taylor, published in 1834.

~New Brunswick, N.J. Col. John Neilson; Reported in Harper's New Monthly Magazine, July 1892, 251.

On July 10, 1776 the Declaration of Independence was read for all to hear in...

~ New York.  Reported in Virginia Gazette, 26 July 1776; New-York Journal, 11 July 1776; Pennsylvania Evening Post, 13 July 1776; Connecticut Courant, 15 July 1776; Pennsylvania Gazette, 17 July 1776; New England Chronicle, 18 July 1776; Connecticut Gazette, 19 July 1776; Pennsylvania Ledger, 20 July 1776; American Gazette, 23 July 1776; Maryland Gazette, 25 July 1776; New York Times, 4 July 1871, 2.


Events leading up to the Declaration of Independence - 1676  History of the United States of America by C. B. Taylor, published in 1834.

On July 14, 1776 the Declaration of Independence was read for all to hear in...

~Worcester, Mass. Isaiah Thomas; Reported in Harper's New Monthly Magazine LXXXV (July 1892); Massachusetts Spy, 24 July 1776, 3; Niles Weekly Register, 5 August 1826; Ada S. Nutt, "Fourth of July Celebrations in Worcester," as printed in Charles Nutt, History of Worcester and Its People. 2 vols. (New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1919) 2:665.

On July 16, 1776 the Declaration of Independence was read for all to hear in...

~Watertown, Mass. Reported in American Gazette, 16 July 1776.


Events leading up to the Declaration of Independence  - 1680  History of the United States of America by C. B. Taylor, published in 1834.

On July 18, 1776 the Declaration of Independence was read for all to hear in...

~Boston. Col. Thomas Crafts;  Reported in Boston Gazette, 22 July 1776; American Gazette, 23 July 1776; New England Chronicle, 25 July 1776; Essex Journal, 26 July 1776; Freeman's Journal, 27 July 1776; Connecticut Gazette, 2 August 1776; Pennsylvania Evening Post, 3 August 1776; New York Journal, 8 August 1776; Maryland Gazette, 15 August 1776; New York Times, 4 July 1871, 2.

~ New York City  Reported in Harper's New Monthly Magazine LXXXV (July 1892).


Events leading up to the Declaration of Independence - 1680  History of the United States of America by C. B. Taylor, published in 1834.

~Watertown, Mass.  Reported in Harper's New Monthly Magazine LXXXV (July 1892).

~Portsmouth, N.H.  Reported in Pennsylvania Packet, 5 August 1776, 2; New York Times, 4 July 1871, 2.


Events leading up to the Declaration of Independence- 1696  History of the United States of America by C. B. Taylor, published in 1834.

On July 20, 1776 the Declaration of Independence was read for all to hear in...

~Newport, R.I.  Reported in Pennsylvania Evening Post, 1 August 1776; Boston-Gazette, 29 July 1776; New York Journal, 8 August 1776.

On July 21, 1776 the Declaration of Independence was read for all to hear in...

~Worcester, Massachusetts. Read by Rev. Thaddeus Maccarty "at the close of his sermon."  Reported in Ada S. Nutt, "Fourth of July Celebrations in Worcester,"  Charles Nutt, History of Worcester and Its People. 2 vols. (New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1919) 2:665.


Events leading up to the Declaration of Independence 1769 -  History of the United States of America by C. B. Taylor, published in 1834.

On July 22, 1776 the Declaration of Independence was read for all to hear in...

~Worcester, Massachusetts. "Read on the green near the liberty pole."  Reported in Massachusetts Spy, 24 July 1776, as reported in Ada S. Nutt, "Fourth of July Celebrations in Worcester," as printed in Charles Nutt, History of Worcester and Its People. 2 vols. (New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1919) 2:665.

~Huntington, Long Island. Reported in New York Journal, 8 August 1776.


Events leading up to the Declaration of Independence - 1775  History of the United States of America by C. B. Taylor, published in 1834.

~Halifax, North Carolina. Cornelius Harnet; Reported in  Harper's New Monthly Magazine LXXXV (July 1892).

On July 23, 1776 the Declaration of Independence was read for all to hear in...

~East Greenwich, N.Y. Reported in New York Journal, 8 August 1776, 2.


Events leading up to the Declaration of Independence -  History of the United States of America by C. B. Taylor, published in 1834.

On July 25, 1776 the Declaration of Independence was read for all to hear in...

~Providence, R.I.  Reported in Providence Gazette,27 July 1776, 3; New York Journal, 8 August 1776.  Williamsburg. Virginia Gazette, 26 July 1776; New York Times, 4 July 1871, 2.

On July 28, 1776 the Declaration of Independence was read for all to hear in...

Ticonderoga, N.Y. Col. St. Clair;  Reported in Pennsylvania Evening Post, 15 August 1776; New York Journal, 15 August 1776; New York Packet, 15 August 1776; New York Gazette and the Weekly Mercury, 19 August 1776, 2.


Events leading up to the Declaration of Independence-  History of the United States of America by C. B. Taylor, published in 1834.

On July 29, 1776 the Declaration of Independence was read for all to hear in...

~Baltimore.  Reported in Pennsylvania Packet, 5 August 1776, 2; New York Times, 4 July 1871, 2. Newport, R.I. Maj. John Handy; Richmond Enquirer, 21 July 1856, 2.

On August 1, 1776 the Declaration of Independence was read for all to hear in...

~Amherst, Mass.  Reported in Harper's New Monthly Magazine LXXXV (July 1892); Pauline Maier, American Scripture: Making the Declaration of Independence (New York: Knopf, 1997), fn10, 274.


Events leading up to the Declaration of Independence -  History of the United States of America by C. B. Taylor, published in 1834.

On August 5, 1776 the Declaration of Independence was read for all to hear in...

~Charleston, S.C.  Reported in Harper's New Monthly Magazine LXXXV (July 1892); A.V. Huff, Jr., "The Eagle and the Vulture: Changing Attitudes Toward Nationalism in Fourth of July Orations Delivered in Charleston, 1778-1860," South Atlantic Quarterly 73/1 (Winter 1974), 11.

~Richmond, Va.  Reported in Harper's New Monthly Magazine LXXXV (July 1892).

On August 7, 1776 the Declaration of Independence was read for all to hear in...

~Bridgetown, N.J.  Reported in Delaware Register, February 1838.

On August 10, 1776 the Declaration of Independence was read for all to hear in...

~Savannah, Georgia.  Reported in Harper's New Monthly Magazine LXXXV (July 1892). Samuel Cooper; New England Chronicle, 15 August 1776.

For much, much more on July 4th celebrations, see:
The Fourth of July Encyclopedia by James R. Heintze (2007)
Music of the Fourth of July: A Year-by-year Chronicle of Performances and Works Composed for the Occasion, by James R. Heintze (2009)
Also see: Hazelton, John H. The Declaration of Independence: Its History. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1906; "How the Declaration was Received." New York Times, 4 July 1871, 2; Maier, Pauline. American Scripture: Making the Declaration of Independence. New York: Knopf, 1997, chapter 4.



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