National Constitution Center Collection Highlights 

National Constitution Center

Featured artifacts from the National Constitution Center Collection

The Pennsylvania Packet Constitution, 1787

This is a rare copy of the first public printing of the United States Constitution. It was made by John Dunlap and David Claypoole, who secretly printed copies of the Constitution's drafts for the delegates during the convention. Once they produced the official, final broadsides, they put their newspaper name on top and sold it for four pence-the first time anyone in the public got to read the document. About 25 copies are known to have survived.

Chair from First Congress, 1790

This is one of 96 chairs made by Thomas Affleck for Congress Hall, Philadelphia. The First Congress used them from 1790 to 1791.

Gold Rush Pocket Scale, 1800s

Miners used pocket scales like this to weigh gold they found while prospecting. The discovery of gold in California sparked a wave of westward migration beginning in 1848. The following year, 80,000 eager “forty-niners” arrived in California, hoping to strike it rich.

Civil War Sword, 1860s

This sword belonged to WH Dull, who was killed at the Battle of Gettysburg in July 1863. During Pickett’s charge, there were 6,000 Confederate casualties in less than 1 hour.

Electro-magnetic Railway Signal Patent Model, 1870

To advance American industry, inventors competed to submit patents for their designs, including this improved electrical circuit for railway signals. The U.S. Patent Office granted 16,738 patents during the first half of the 1800s. Over the next fifty years, the number of accepted patents rose to 632,695!

Carrie Nation Hatchet Pins Promoting Prohibition, ca. 1900

The 18th Amendment banned the sale, manufacture, and transport of alcoholic beverages in 1919. Fourteen years later, Prohibition ended when the 21st Amendment was ratified--the first and only time an amendment has been repealed.

Susan B. Anthony Letter, 1901

Susan B. Anthony continued to support the National American Woman Suffrage Association after her retirement in 1900 at age 80. In this letter, she states that good women and men cannot suppress “vice and immorality” until women gain the vote and legal equality.

United Hatters of North America Ruler, ca. 1910

This folding ruler is more than just a nifty measuring device; it’s a persuasive tool issued by the United Hatters to promote fair labor efforts. Encouraging consumers to think twice before buying non-union goods, the ruler asked the user: “Why trade with retailers who handle unfair goods for the extra profits?”

Betty Crocker Rationing Cookbook, 1943

To make sure troops and everyone on the home front received their fair share during World War II, the U.S. government introduced rationing. This cookbook advised the "women … behind the guns" on how to prepare healthful meals for their families when items such as meat and dairy were in short supply.

Piece of the Berlin Wall, ca. 1989

This concrete fragment came from the Berlin Wall. First built in 1961, the wall prevented those in Soviet-controlled East Berlin from defecting to West Berlin (administered by France, Britain, and the United States) during the height of the Cold War. Its fall in November 1989 led to the reunification of Germany.

Justin Dart's Wheelchair, ca. 1990

Disability activist Justin Dart used this wheelchair to attend the July 26, 1990, signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), an act he helped craft. Paralyzed by polio as a teenager, Dart left a successful business career to focus on civil rights for the disabled. To build support for the ADA and demonstrate the need for it, Dart criss-crossed the country, holding 63 public forums for persons with disabilities, advocates, and caregivers in all 50 states. Over 7,000 people attended, many sharing frank testimony about discrimination that Dart presented to the Senate hearings on the ADA. Dart was awarded the Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, in 1998. At the ceremony, President William Clinton said Dart had “opened the doors of opportunities to millions of our citizens by securing passage of one of the nation’s landmark civil rights laws.” Dart died in 2002 at the age of 71.

World Trade Center Debris, 2001

The September 11, 2001, attack on the World Trade Center's iconic Twin Towers killed thousands and raised, yet again, the issue of balancing national security and civil liberties.

Barack Obama's "A More Perfect Union" Speech, 2008

On March 18, 2008, at a pivotal moment of his campaign, presidential candidate Barack Obama delivered a speech about race in America at the National Constitution Center. This hard copy that he later signed was on the podium; he had it in case there was a problem with the teleprompter.

Credits: Story

National Constitution Center Collection

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