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Proclamation Announcing Ratification of Treaty of Paris and Details of a “Triumphal Arch” in Philadelphia
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[AMERICAN REVOLUTION]. Broadside, December 2, 1783. Philadelphia, printed by Thomas Bradford. 7.875 x 10.25 in.

Inventory #26496       Price: $9,500

To celebrate the war’s end, carefully planned celebrations—termed “Demonstrations of Joy”—were scheduled in each state to unite the new country in a communal patriotic experience. The celebration in Philadelphia centered around this “Triumphal Arch,” a grand wooden structure over 35 feet tall, to be “illuminated by about twelve hundred Lamps” and “embellished with illuminated Paintings...and that some Fireworks be prepared for the Occasion.”

The Triumphal Arch was the only permissible “Demonstration of Joy” in the city on 22 January 1784, to be unveiled at 6th and Market Streets at nightfall, designed by artist and showman Charles Willson Peale, whose window displays in Philadelphia were already very popular. This rare broadside goes into great detail about the specifications of the Arch, which was to be modeled on Roman arches promoting civic virtues such as “Justice, Prudence, Temperance, and Fortitude,” qualities that leaders wanted citizens in the fledgling country to embody. The Arch was to be so awe-inspiring that even a mechanical “Goddess of Peace” was to descend upon it at the beginning of the celebration, prompting an explosion of 700 fireworks.

Crowded with the residents of Philadelphia, the festivities began as planned with fireworks exploding into the night, no one apparently noticing that a rocket stand was positioned too close to the Arch itself. As the fireworks alighted, they immediately set fire to the highly flammable oil paintings adorning the Arch, which in turn caused the entire wooden structure to be consumed in flames. Peale himself caught fire, fell 20 feet to the ground and broke several ribs. In pain and humiliated, he immediately fled the Arch towards his home a mile away, apparently catching a ride on a nearby sled. However, once recovered, Peale reconstructed the remains of the scorched Arch and re-debuted it (sans pyrotechnics) on May 10, 1784 in front of what is now Independence Hall, to great success; perhaps the first example of the adage that Americans love to give second chances.

Condition: Folds, some foxing, mounting remnant to verso and two small spots of paper loss at edges. Overall very good condition. Housed in custom slipcase.


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