Constitution or “Plan of the New Federal Government”

by Arielle Willett, Class of 2015, and Ilhan Citak, Librarian

Happy Constitution Day!

While many Americans celebrate the 4th of July with fireworks, parties, and parades, there is another very important day in our history that often goes unobserved- Constitution Day. Celebrated today, September 17, this day commemorates the original signing of the Constitution in 1787, and recognizes all those who are citizens of the United States. It was almost 250 years ago that the founding fathers of our country met for the last time at the Constitutional Convention and finalized this document, thereby laying the groundwork for a new system of government.

The printed version of the United States Constitution first time appeared in the September 19, 1787 issue of the Pennsylvania Gazette.

On the left is the original article from the Wednesday, September 19, 1787 issue of the Pennsylvania Gazette, outlining to the public the terms of their country’s new constitution. Published by Benjamin Franklin, the Gazette had a large audience, reaching many of the early American colonies and states. It was mainly used for classified ads and other personal inquiries. It is an excellent primary source that proves how much has changed over the past two and a half centuries; on the back page, one can see classifieds offering rewards for missing horses set next to rewards for runaway slaves and indentured servants-

Front page of the September 19, 1787 issue of the Pennsylvania Gazette.

Since the original signed constitution was a handwritten document, the Pennsylvania Gazette’s September 19 version is considered to be the first print copy of it. In almost perfect condition, this document gives us unique insight into early American history. In our hands we are holding the newspaper that first introduced our constitution to the public. It was in this paper that, centuries ago, people were reading this article and seeing for the first time the principles and ideas that laid the foundation upon which our present day government is built.

The Pennsylvania Gazette, along with other rare and historical documents, can be found in Special Collections at Linderman Library. To see or learn more about any of these documents, please contact Special Collections.

Special Collections student assistants (L-R) Arielle Willett, Ali Yeager, Zion Um are examining the September 19, 1787 issue of the Pennsylvania Gazette.


Leave a Reply