Friday, May 16, 2008


A "Dunlap Broadside" copy of the Declaration of Independence.

Minnesota became the 32nd state of the Union on May 11, 1858—150 years ago this past Sunday. It wasn't until today, though, that I had a chance to celebrate my state's birthday with a trip to St. Paul to visit the Minnesota History Center and the State Capitol. The special draw at the history center was a rare original copy of the Declaration of Independence—one of only 25 in existence, and the only one to tour the country. The copy is one of the "Dunlap Broadsides"—printed copies produced in Philadelphia on the evening of July 4, 1776 to be distributed throughout the colonies. It was especially exciting for me to see it after having seen an original copy of the Magna Carta in Salibury, England, last summer. It's a reminder of how potent and world-changing the written word can be. Although the copy we saw in St. Paul had none of the signatures that are on the "engrossed" copy in Washington, it was inspiring to think of this copy being read aloud in July 1776, and to think of the ordinary people hearing those famous words for the first time in history.* The Declaration of Independence is on display at the Minnesota History Center through this Sunday, May 18.

The Rotunda of the Minnesota State Capitol.

We (my friend Peytie and I) got in to see the Declaration just before a deluge of blue-shirted students from Thief River Falls, in St. Paul for a field trip. After pausing to admire the document, we walked over to the State Capitol to admire the rotunda, to peek into the Senate and Supreme Court chambers, and to see the remains of the flag carried by the brave men of the First Minnesota at Gettysburg. The Capitol was completed in 1905 and designed by Ohio-born St. Paul architect Cass Gilbert. Next weekend, Clara and I will be in Oberlin, Ohio, for Clara's 25th reunion at Oberlin College—where Cass Gilbert designed several of the most beautiful buildings on campus, including the incomparable Allen Memorial Art Museum.

After a brief tour of the Capitol, Peytie and I headed over to Como Park for a walk around the beautiful conservatory, followed by a wonderful picnic in the park. Here's a little gallery of our day in St. Paul.

The Minnesota History Center

The Minnesota State Capitol

Bonsai in the Conservatory (an 85-year old Chinese elm)

The Interior of the Conservatory

*According to one story, the "patriot printer" Isaiah Thomas was the first person to read the Declaration in Massachusetts. A copy—a Dunlap Broadside—was being carried by post rider from Philadelphia to Boston, and stopped in Worcester, Mass., where Thomas lived and worked. Thomas took the copy and read it from the steps of the town hall to a cheering crowd.

1 comment:

Shan said...

Oh my! Your photos make me miss my St. Paul days so much! In college, my main running route was from my dorm east up Summit to the Cathedral and back. There is nothing like it, especially in the spring or the fall, those lovely transition months. Sigh...

New Poem: "Phrasebook"

My poem " Phrasebook " has been published online in Ergon: Greek/American Arts and Letters .