Skip to comments.Possible Declaration of Independence copy found in Alabama
Posted on 07/06/2005 1:23:39 PM PDT by TheBigB
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) This much is certain: Janice Burks has a copy of the Declaration of Independence, which her late husband said he found in a hidden compartment in a box he bought in Philadelphia decades ago.
Past that, the truths are not exactly self-evident.
The document may be one of the earliest known copies of the nation's founding document, a valuable treasure that turned up unexpectedly in an out-of-the-way part of Alabama. Or it could be a clever fake crafted not too many years ago.
Either way, the Burks family wants to have the document checked by experts.
"Even if it turned out to be a forgery, it would be good just to know one way or the other," Burks told the Montgomery Advertiser in a story on Independence Day.
Bert Bodiford, a history buff who also works with the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office, said Burks' late husband, Paul, contacted him in 1992 seeking help authenticating a document he said he found in his workshop in Wilsonville.
Bodiford said Burks told him he was on vacation in Philadelphia in the late '60s and bought an old wooden box covered in leather at a flea market. It cost between $5 and $15, Bodiford said.
"Well, around 1989, he was cleaning out his workshop and decided to get rid of the box. He threw it in the back of his truck with some other things. When he came out to throw in another load, he noticed that the top was broken, and that the box had a false top."
Burks told Bodiford that inside the box, he found a scroll of paper with a piece of gold cord around it, an empty velvet bag attached to the cord and an old wasp nest.
Janice Burks said her husband initially thought the document was just another modern-day copy of the Declaration of Independence.
"At first, I don't think he really thought it was anything," she said. "But the more he looked into it, and the more he found out about it, the more excited he got."
What he found was that the document he had might not be just a copy of the Declaration of Independence, but one of the first copies that historians call a Dunlap broadside only 25 are known to exist, and one sold for $8.1 million during a Sotheby's online auction in June 2000.
Susan Cooper of the National Archives said the Declaration of Independence actually was signed almost a month after the celebrated July 4 date. July 4, 1776, was when the Dunlap broadside was printed, becoming sort of a Colonial American version of e-mail.
"Back then, they didn't have a way to communicate with each other rapidly, so they sent broadsides," she said.
While other Dunlap broadsides have the printed name of John Hancock, who was then president of the Continental Congress, the Burks' copy taken out of the safety of a bank vault only three or four times since Paul Burks' death appears to have Hancock's actual signature and has ink-stained handprints on the back.
For Ashley Burks, the son of Paul Burks, uncovering the background of the document is personal.
"It's not really about the money," he said. "I know this is something my daddy would have wanted me to finish."
Experts have looked at the document, with some concluding it was genuine and others saying it was a forgery. The family intends to again try to have the document authenticated, but testing fees start at $2,500.
"The truth is that if any of us were millionaires, we'd be able to go out tomorrow and find out, but we aren't, and we will have to try and find some other way to get tests like that done," said Bodiford.
Wonder if the ACLU will let them display it?
and did they find the glasses to go with the copy??????
UPS Ground will suffice.
The article didn't state where the document is, but I don't think I would want to advertise the fact that I might have a $8.1 million dollar document in my house. Too many kooks out there. (Now, where do they live again???????)
Does it use proportional fonts?
That whole right to own guns thingy: forget we mentioned it.
Gays can too get married.
It may be fake, but it's accurate. :^)
Was there a map on the back of it???
No, but there is a part in there showing that W fixed things for going to war in Iraq.
(D'oh!!! Sheepish thanks....)
If it is actualy a SIGNED copy, it would be worth 80 million or more.........
From 15 buck to 8 million - imagine the capital gains tax on that!
That's all the reason the government will need to take the document away from them on the grounds that there might be a greater public benefit to display it in a museum that charges admission and pays taxes than to let it stay in these people's home so only they can enjoy it (until their home is taken, too).
"If it is actualy a SIGNED copy, it would be worth 80 million or more........."
**Zoink** I'll take that. More tax money to be had charging admission.
You're confusing the Declaration with the Constitution.
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