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DescriptionUnique and Historic Broadside Celebrating the July 4, 1876, Centennial of American Independence, Signed by President Grant and All the Members of the Government. This amazing, huge document, measuring 30" x 47", was created by order of a special Act of Congress in order to honor that historic milestone! It is titled "The Administration of the United States Government at the Beginning of the 2nd Century, Washington, D.C. - July 4th, 1876." On the morning of July 4th, the scroll was taken to the White House, where it was signed by President Grant and all his Cabinet members. (His vice president, Henry Wilson, had died in office, so there was no vice presidential signature.) It was then conveyed to the Supreme Court Building where all the justices signed, and the court's official seal was added. Then on to the Senate for a similar ceremony. The Secretary of Senate affixed his own signature attesting to the fact that he had witnessed the signings and added the official seal of the Senate. The same procedure was repeated at the House of Representatives, where all the Congressmen and then the Territorial delegates signed. Once again, the Secretary of that body certified the signatures and added the official seal of the House of Representatives. A copy was made which was placed in a "centennial safe" in the Capitol, where it remained until the safe was opened for the 1976 Bicentennial.
From there this remarkable document was sent to Philadelphia, where it was prominently displayed at the official celebration of the Centennial. The moving force behind the creation of the document was Gen. James D. McBride, and it was returned to his custody after the Centennial Exposition closed. McBride felt that just one thing was missing from this historic piece - the Great Seal of the United States. The Secretary of State is the custodian of the Great Seal, and so McBride asked Secretary William Evarts if it could be added. But Evart felt he lacked authority to affix the Seal to documents owned by private individuals. So back to Congress Gen. McBride went, and in January 1878 they passed another resolution, this one authorizing that the Great Seal be added to the historic document.
As the 1892 400th anniversary of Columbus's arrival in the New World approached, McBride Resolved to create a similar piece to honor that occasion. Like the 1876 Centennial, it would be treated as an important event highlighted by the Columbian Exposition in Chicago. The resulting document, a nearly exact replication of the 1876 version, joined its predecessor as the only two occasions in American history when documents not generated in the course of official business were affixed with the Great Seal, as well as the only two times when the Seal was so used by an Act of Congress. These were also the only two occasions we have been able to identify when all members of the Federal government placed their signatures on a single document.
This entire history is discussed in The Eagle and the Shield, a 1976 book on the story of the Great Seal published by the U.S. State Department and the Bicentennial Administration (pp. 374-377). A copy of this volume is included with the lot.
The broadside has been permanently affixed to a heavy board backing and framed to a standard befitting its significance and value. Overall display presence is excellent, although for accuracy we note minor edge tears and some light soiling toward the bottom (probably the portion that was exposed when it stored rolled). As will usually be the case when a document is signed using a variety of inks and pens, some signatures have faded to varying degrees, while others remain strong and dark. However, the overall display presence is pleasing and most impressive, as the photograph shows.
It is challenging to place an estimated value on such a unique artifact of American history. In its only recorded appearance at auction, it sold for $138,000 on June 28, 2007 in a well-known Los Angeles area auction. We have chosen to simply to set what we feel to be a very conservative minimum opening bid and allow this important lot to find its own level.
Service and Handling Description: Framed - with Glass, Large (view shipping information)
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