It’s challenging to try and pick out just one unique item from our collection to celebrate Independence Day. In 1776 the University of Pennsylvania was located just a few blocks away from Independence Hall and several of those present at the Second Continental Congress had ties to the University. It seems fitting then to feature the Libraries’ Hale Signers Collection (Ms. Coll. 621). This collection consists of an assortment of documents – each of which bear the signature of one of the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence .
Thecollection was assembled over the course of the 19th century by John Mills Hale of Philipsburg, Pa. and given to the University after his death. The collection is not only interesting for its artifactual value but also for understanding historical memory and nationalism in the nineteenth century. Penn’s Hale collection has been used by researchers interested in how the idea of “founding fathers” and “signers” was constructed in the early United States. For those interested in reading an in-depth account of how autograph mania and the historical memory of the founding of the US intersected, Josh Lauer (formerly a Penn graduate student and now a professor at UNH) has written the best account .