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Reenacting the First Public Reading of The Declaration of Independence

Posted on Tuesday, July 9, 2019

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On July 8, 1776, Colonel John Nixon strode to a platform behind The Pennsylvania State House (now Independence Hall) and read The Declaration of Independence aloud to the throngs of people gathered to hear this revolutionary news.

Colonel John Nixon, Behind Independence Hall, July 8, 2019

Every year on July 8th, Independence National Historical Park's staff members celebrate an annual commemorative re-enactment of this historic event. Plus, free copies of The Declaration of Independence are given out to all visitors.

Colonel John Nixon (right), Behind Independence Hall, July 8, 2019

How Did People Learn About The First Public Reading in 1776?

Back in the mid-1700s, the Liberty Bell rang many times for public announcements, and it is believed to have rung on July 8, 1776 to announce the first public reading of The Declaration of Independence.

The Liberty Bell with Independence Hall in the Background

Generally, the public reading is scheduled to happen outside of Independence Hall near the statue of Commodore John Barry, but in 2019, rain forced the ceremony inside of Congress Hall.

The Rain Forced the Reenactment of the 1st Public Reading of The Declaration of Independence inside of Congress Hall, July 8, 2019

After the reenactment, the actors moved outside since the rain had stopped, and they posed for pictures with visitors.

Reenactment of the First Public Reading of The Declaration of Independence, July 8, 2019

Below is an artist's rendering of what the first reading of The Declaration of Independence outside of Independence Hall in Philadelphia may have looked like. 

Colonel John Nixon Providing the First Public Reading of The Declaration of Independence Outside Independence Hall (Credit: New York Public Library)

The Constitutional Walking Tour visits more than 20 of the most historic sites in the Independence National Historical Park area including the Declaration House where Thomas Jefferson wrote The Declaration of Independence, Signers' Walk which is the Founding Fathers Hall of Fame, Independence Hall which is where America was born, the President's House where Adams lived while serving as the President, the Liberty Bell and more, on a 75 minute walking journey through America's Birthplace.

Even though we celebrate America's Birthday on July 4th and July 8th with the reenactment of the first public reading of The Declaration of Independence, The Constitutional offers tours year round. Come see why we say that Every Day is Independence Day in America's Birthplace!

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