John Dunlap and His Famous Broadsides

John Dunlap Famous People American History Government Law and Politics

In disseminating important news of the day, via his printed broadsides, John Dunlap played a key role in America's war for independence from Britain.

As the official printer, for the Continental Congress, Dunlap created the first printed version of America’s Declaration of Independence. As this document shows, the earliest version of the Colonies' Declaration was only signed by John Hancock and attested-to by Charles Thomson (President and Secretary, respectively, of the Continental Congress).


Hancock sent a copy of Dunlap's broadside to General George Washington. In his transmittal letter—which also contained the Congressional Resolutions of July 4, 1776—Hancock requested that:

...you [Washington] will have it [the Declaration] proclaimed at the Head of the Army in the Way, you shall think most proper. (See Hancock to Washington, 6 July 1776.)

Recognizing the Declaration’s impact would require the Americans to expand their war-making ability, Hancock also advised Washington—in the same July 6th letter—that he had ordered more ships:

I have wrote to Governor Cooke to engage immediately, and send forward as fast as possible, fifty ship Carpenters to General Schuyler for the Purpose of building Vessels on the Lakes. Fifty are already gone from hence on that Business.

Dunlap also created the first printed copy of the U.S. Constitution.

We learn more about the official 1776 Congressional printer from the Dunlap family records:

John Dunlap (1746-27 Nov 1812), a Scots-Irishman from Strabane, Co. Tyrone, Ulster, printed the first daily newspaper in the US, the "General Advertiser,” in Philadelphia. He was appointed printer to the Continental Congress in 1773, printing not only the first copy of the Declaration of Independence - at the time called "the Dunlap Broadside" - but also the Constitution of the United States.

John founded the 1st Troop of Philadelphia City Calvary in 1774, seeing action in the campaign of 1776-77 at Princeton and Trenton. John also subscribed £4,000 to the American Army in 1780 and owned 98,000 acres in Virginia and the land on which Utica, Ohio now stands.

His wife, Janet Rutherford, was the niece to Benjamin Franklin's wife. The couple were frequent visitors and close friends of the Franklins. Janet was descended from the Rutherfords of Hunthill, Strabane, Northern Ireland....distant cousins of Sir Walter Scott! (...submitted by Gary Harding)

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5197stories and lessons created

Original Release: Sep 06, 2017

Updated Last Revision: Sep 06, 2017

Media Credits

Image of John Dunlap online, courtesy Dunlap family records. PD


In-text image of Dunlap's broadside of the Declaration of Independence, online via the Library of Congress. PD


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"John Dunlap and His Famous Broadsides" AwesomeStories.com. Sep 06, 2017. Jun 03, 2020.
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