Constitution Day Life Unfolds on Paper
Urban legend is that the Constitution was written on hemp paper. Written 223 years ago, the Constitution is currently housed in a glass case at the National Archives along with the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights. All three are written on parchment, not hemp paper. Parchment is treated animal skin, typically sheepskin. Today, we mimic these true (animal skin) vellums with our mottled parchment papers like Parch-Tone. The Declaration was inked with iron gall ink. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory was commissioned to create a system to monitor the physical status of all three documents. The Charters of Freedom Monitoring System took digital photos of each sheet of parchment in 1987, each document divided into one-inch squares. Over time, the photos are retaken and compared to the original to look for signs of deterioration. Before the charters were recently re-encased for display, a small tear in the Declaration was repaired by adding Japanese paper to the gap. This is the only paper in any of the documents.
How much do you know about the creation, history, and content of the Constitution? We’ve compiled a list of the most surprising facts about the blueprint for the Federal Government.
- The four pages of the Constitution are on permanent display at the National Archives. But there is a fifth page. It is the Letter of Transmittal of the newly written Constitution to the Congress that existed under the Articles of Confederation. The letter, which briefly describes the Constitution, is signed by George Washington, president of the Constitutional Convention. It is dated September 17, 1787, the anniversary of which we celebrate each year as Constitution Day.
- Only one Amendment to the Constitution has been repealed—the 18th (Prohibition).
- The last time the Constitution was moved (to return it after preservation treatment to the renovated Rotunda in 2003), it was transported by a convoy of guarded trucks. In 1921, however, things were a bit simpler. “Librarian of Congress Herbert Putnam went to the State Department, signed a receipt, placed the Declaration and Constitution on a pile of leather U.S. mail sacks and a cushion in a Model-T Ford truck, returned with them to the Library of Congress, and placed them in a safe in his office.”
- The Constitution does not require that the Speaker of the House of Representatives be a member of the House, although a nonmember has never been chosen Speaker.
- Six men signed both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution: George Read, Roger Sherman, Benjamin Franklin, Robert Morris, George Clymer, and James Wilson.
- Two Founding Fathers and future Presidents were not at the Constitutional Convention in 1787 and did not sign the Constitution. John Adams was ambassador to Great Britain, and Thomas Jefferson was ambassador to France.
- The Speaker is the second in line to the Presidency, after the Vice President, under the Presidential Succession Act of 1947.
- Amendments to the Constitution are repealed by adding another amendment.