National Constitution Center Collection Highlights

Featured artifacts from the National Constitution Center Collection

By National Constitution Center

The Pennsylvania Packet Constitution The Pennsylvania Packet Constitution, 1787-09-19, Original Source: National Constitution Center
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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, Original Source: National Constitution Center
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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, Original Source: National Constitution Center
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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 Civil War Sword, 1860s, Original Source: National Constitution Center
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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 one hour.

Electro-magnetic Railway Signal Patent Model Electro-magnetic Railway Signal Patent Model, 1870, Original Source: National Constitution Center
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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 Carrie Nation Hatchet Pins Promoting Prohibition, ca. 1900, Original Source: National Constitution Center
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These pins were worn to show support for temperance. In 1919, the 18th Amendment officially banned the sale, manufacture, and transport of alcoholic beverages. 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, Original Source: National Constitution Center
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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 United Hatters of North America Ruler, ca. 1910, Original Source: National Constitution Center
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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 Betty Crocker Rationing Cookbook, 1943, Original Source: National Constitution Center
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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, Original Source: National Constitution Center
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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, Original Source: National Constitution Center
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Justin Dart, who was paralyzed by polio as a teenager, used this wheelchair at the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in July 1990. Recognized as the “father of the ADA,” Dart left behind a successful business career to fight for human and disability rights. Appointed as vice-chair of the National Council on Disability in 1981, Dart traveled the country with his wife Yoshiko to meet with advocates. In 1988, the Darts visited every state, holding public forums to build support and demonstrate the need for the ADA.

World Trade Center Debris, 2001, Original Source: National Constitution Center
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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, Barack Obama, 2008, From the collection of: National Constitution Center
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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.

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National Constitution Center Collection

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