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Ulster American Folk Park, Co. Tyrone

Rare copy of American Declaration of Independence on display at Folk Park

5 July

In the week when millions of Americans celebrated Independence Day, a rare copy of the Declaration of Independence has gone on display at the Ulster American Folk Park near Omagh - and the document has unexpected connections to County Tyrone.

"Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" - the famous words of the document which were read in the 13 colonies which regarded themselves as independent from the British state in July 1776.

On the night of what became Independence Day, a young man from Strabane was typesetting and checking those words before the document was sent out.

John Dunlap left his home in 1757 at the age of ten for Philadelphia to serve an apprenticeship with his uncle, a printer and bookseller. By 1776, he had already made a name for himself, publishing a popular weekly newspaper. That year, he secured a contract for printing with the Second Continental Congress and on the 4th July, 1776, the congressional president, John Hancock, ordered Dunlap to print the newly agreed Declaration of Independence.

The 200 copies printed by the Tyrone man became known as the Dunlap Broadsides.

One of the few remaining copies is now on display in the Ulster American Folk Park, after it was discovered in the National Archives some years ago.

Another local man, Maghera native Charles Thomson, is also named on the original document.

He was the secretary of the Continental Congress and created the Great Seal, still used by the Office of the President to this day.

With so many local links to the Broadside, Dr Mowat, curator of the Folk Park, says there is a sense of the Declaration coming home.

"It's a wonderful document. You could summarise it by saying that this is a copy of America's birth certificate."

The Dunlap Broadside is on display at the Folk Park until September.

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Ulster American Folk Park, Omagh

Experience the adventure that takes you from the thatched cottages of Ulster, on board a full scale emigrant sailing ship, to the log cabins of the American Frontier.

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