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America's independence comes to life in exhibit with 18th century rare documents

June 14, 2013

Just in time for Independence Day, the Loyola University New Orleans Honors Program is displaying authentic printings of the Declaration of Independence from 1776 and the real-life famous signature of John Hancock, one of America’s founding fathers. “Rebels With a Cause,” the free and public exhibit, opens today, Flag Day, and features 36 rare, historical documents from June and July 1776 to 1788—the key period for the nation’s independence.

The exhibit runs through Aug. 2 and is located in the University Honors suite on the first floor of Loyola’s J. Edgar and Louise S. Monroe Library.

Loyola Honors Program Director Naomi Yavneh Klos, Ph.D., and honors students Felice Lavergne, Kylee McIntyre and Mara Steven will also host a symposium and Q-and-A session July 2 at the exhibit. The symposium will offer an overview of the documents on display and cover common myths and little-known facts surrounding America’s independence, including whether Betsy Ross designed the first flag, who the heads of state were before George Washington, the real birthday of the nation and more.

The historic documents include part of the personal collection of Yavneh Klos and her husband, Stanley Klos. The newspapers, manuscripts and letters from key storytellers such as Hancock, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Robert Morris and Henry Knox help paint the picture of America’s freedom.

“Now it’s true, you can go online and you can see the Declaration of Independence and other historical documents. But to me there’s something really palpable and special about being with the document and realizing that this was one of the most important moments in our country’s history—this is the founding of our country,” Yavneh Klos said.

“And there are all sorts of strange and quirky little stories that come out in these documents … it’s really not the way you read about these events in textbooks.”

For example, many don’t know that the Resolution for Independency (the exhibit will feature John Dunlap’s official printing of this from 1776) was actually passed July 2. Two days later, the now-famous Declaration of Independence was enacted July 4, 1776. Founding father John Adams thought July 2 would be celebrated as America’s Independence Day rather than July 4—which is what he wrote to his wife Abigail at the time, according to Yavneh Klos. Other than by Continental Congress President Hancock and Secretary Charles Thompson, the Declaration was not signed until Aug. 2.

The exhibit focuses on 18th-century documents describing seven important events for the nation’s freedom, including:

  • the establishment of Flag Day June 14, 1777;
  • Spain declaring war on Great Britain June 21, 1779, which brought Louisiana into the war;
  • Congress fleeing the capital in Philadelphia relocating to Nassau Hall in Princeton, N.J., June 21, 1783 to July 3, 1783;
  • the ratification of the Constitution of 1787 June 21, 1788;
  • the Resolution for Independency and the Declaration of Independence July 2, 1776 to Aug. 2, 1776;
  • U.S. President-elect Samuel Johnston declining the office on July 9, 1781; and
  • the Northwest Ordinance of July 13, 1787, which prohibited slavery in the U.S. territory northwest of the Ohio River.

The exhibit is open during summer library hours, which are listed online.

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