John Hancock signed the Declaration of Independence with the members of Continental Congress on August 2,1776. The Museum of the American Revolution, in Philadelphia, now has a rare 1823 engraving of the Declaration of Independence that was owned by Charles Carroll, the last signer.
Carroll signed the engraving on August 2, 1826 to commemorate the 50th anniversary the Declaration of Independence was signed. This printing is displayed alongside two rare letters by John Hancock (1776), and John Quincy Adams (1832). The items on display are those on loan to the Museum by the Norcross family.
“We are grateful to the Norcross family for their generosity in loaning to us these incredible treasures which serve as a reminder that we have been marking the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence since the lifetime of the signers themselves,” said Dr. R. Scott Stephenson, President and CEO of the Museum. “As we approach the Declaration’s 250th anniversary in 2026, we embrace the opportunity for celebration of the progress we have made and reflection on the unfinished work of ensuring that the promise of the American Revolution endures.”
The Declaration Printing, engraved William J. Stone’s engraving is the closest that visitors can get to the American Declaration of Independence right after its founders signed it, in 1776. The original Declaration, which is now held by the National Archives in Washington, D.C., with the founders’ signatures is badly faded and parts of it are illegible. John Quincy Adams, the Secretary of State, hired Stone in 1820 to make this near-duplicate. This was done to preserve the already damaged original. Stone took three years to create this copy. During that time, he kept the original Declaration at his shop. Stone’s engravings were used to make all subsequent copies of the Declaration.
Charles Carroll of Carrollton in Maryland, the last living signer of The Declaration of Independence owned this example of the Stone engraving. In a note on the bottom left, Carroll presented the engraving to a friend and signed it “exactly half a century after having affixed his name to the original.”
On display is a copy of a letter that John Quincy Adams wrote to W.B. Barney, November 19, 1832. Following Charles Carroll’s death on November 14, 1832, former President John Quincy Adams – son of another signer of the Declaration, John Adams – wrote a letter declining an invitation to join Carroll’s funeral procession that he had received from the Maryland chapter of The Society of the Cincinnati, a hereditary organization of Continental Army officers and their descendants.
On display is a letter from John Hancock dated July 8,1776. Hancock ordered the first printing on the same day that the Declaration of Independence was read in public for the first time at Philadelphia. Hancock was fulfilling his duties as the president of the Continental Congress. This role justified his famously large signature on the Declaration of Independence.
In the letter, he announces that “Congress have judged it necessary to dissolve all Connection between Great Britain and the American Colonies; and to declare them free and independent states, you will perceive by the enclosed Declaration.”