This is the third in a series of articles taken from Patriotic Printers in the November 2015 issue of Coin World Monthly:
John Dunlap, 1747 to 1812
The flame of liberty was lit at Philadelphia’s Independence Hall on July 4, 1776, and proclaimed to the world by a printer who also served as a soldier.
After a month of debate, “the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress Assembled” solemnly published and declared “that these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be, Free and Independent States.”
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The Declaration of Independence, written and approved at a time when British forces were converging on the belligerent colonies, was a dangerous document for the signers and anyone else having anything to do with it.
The signers pledged to each other “our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor” in support of the declaration.
Printer John Dunlap, just 29, made no such pledge, but by setting the world-changing document in type, placed himself in harm’s way as much as any delegate.
Dunlap, working in a brick building just across the street from the city’s market, took a handwritten copy of the Declaration and set it in type the night of July 4 so that it could immediately be dispatched to the newly independent states and the troops in the field.
Dunlap fled Philadelphia as the British closed in on the city during the fall of 1777. Patriots stripped the city of anything the British could use, including the Liberty Bell, before allowing the British to march in without opposition on Sept. 26, 1777. Dunlap moved his press to Lancaster, Pa., safely behind American lines, until the 15,000 occupying British troops evacuated the city on July 18, 1778.