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Very rare copy of the Declaration of Independence, once hidden behind the wallpaper, surfaces

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Rare Declaration of Independence copy found

Where and how was a rare copy of the Declaration of Independence?

An extremely rare copy of the Declaration of Independence that was hidden behind the wallpaper to protect it from browse civil war troops, has surfaced.

The Washington Post reports that the copy, which is one of only 51 known to exist, surfaced last month after the purchase by the billionaire David M. Rubenstein, co-founder of private equity company Carlyle Group.

Rare document dealer Seth Kaller, who worked on the sale, told Fox News that the calfskin copy is one of two that were given to founding father James Madison by Congress in 1824.

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“It is very rare to find one with a close relationship with one of the founders,” he said, adding that the location of the second specimen is unknown.

Madison probably gave the existing copy to his cousin, Robert Lewis Madison, with Kaller on to note that the document was not part of the Madison estate as the father died in 1836.

By the time of the civil war, Madison’s son, Robert Lewis Madison, Jr., was in the possession of the Declaration. Madison, Jr., a doctor in the Confederate army and was a doctor Robert E. Lee, was apparently afraid that search troops would destroy the document. According to a 1913 newspaper article, the doctor’s wife hid the copy paper on a wall in the house of the family, probably in Lexington, Virginia.

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The historical artefact has survived the war, albeit with some damage from moisture, and remained in the Madison family. The Washington Post reports that a Madison descendant Michael O ‘ Mara took the copy, when he was going through the family papers after his mother’s death in 2014. O ‘mara’ s mother, Helen, was the great-granddaughter of Robert Lewis Madison Jr.

The Declaration, in a broken frame, in a cardboard box on O’mara’s office outside of Houston for 10 years prior to his re-discovery, according to the Washington Post. Before that, the document was in O’mara’s parents ‘ home in Louisville, Kentucky. In the first instance, displayed on a mantelpiece, the document was reportedly stored in a bedroom cabinet when the frame is torn.

Last year, experts from the Washington conservation Studio spent about 10 months working on the moisture-damaged document.

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Rubenstein, who is the owner of the five copies of the document, including the newest version, told the Washington Post that he paid “seven figures” for the Declaration.

The Declaration is one of about 200 in the beginning of the 19th century, amidst concerns about the condition of the original 1776 document. In 1820, when Secretary of state John Quincy Adams commissioned printer William J. Stone to create an exact copy of the Declaration. Stone is then engraved the image on a copper plate and printed on calfskin.

Stone worked on the copy for almost three years – as a result of his engraving is the best representation of the Declaration as the manuscript looked, at that time, according to Kaller.

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In 1823, the State Department requested 200 copies of the facsimile of the engraved plate. Stone printed 201 copies, one of which he kept for himself. Bricks made of an extra set of copies in 1833.

Against this background, it is the latest find is very important, Keller told Fox News. “We get about five to 10 calls per week from someone who thinks that they have one of these – if it’s not one of those very rare beginning of the first or second editions printed by William Stone, it is not valuable.”

The recently resurfaced instance will be exhibited in the Smithsonian Nation Museum of American History.

Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers

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