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Constitution and Bill of Rights

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The Declaration of Independence:
The First Newspaper Printing, the Second Publication in Any Form and the First to Closely Follow Thomas Jefferson’s Style (SOLD)

[DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE], Newspaper. The Pennsylvania Evening Post, Saturday, July 6, 1776, Philadelphia: Benjamin Towne, 4 pages (8½ x 10 in.)

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Item #DOI - 7-6-1776, SOLD — please inquire about other items

The Declaration of Independence – Rare July 1776 Massachusetts Spy Printing with Paul Revere Masthead (SOLD)

DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE, Newspaper. The Massachusetts Spy, Or, American Oracle of Liberty. Published by Isaiah Thomas, printed by W. Stearns and D. Bigelow, Worcester, Mass., July 17, 1776. Vol. 6, no. 273.

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“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…”

This issue of Worcester’s Massachusetts Spy is one of the most attractive and displayable contemporary newspaper printings of the Declaration of Independence. In addition to having the complete text on page one, the elaborate masthead—unusual for the period—was engraved by Paul Revere and features an image of Liberty seated with a pole and cap. The motto, “Undaunted by Tyrants we’ll DIE or be FREE” makes clear the newspaper’s fervent support of the patriotic cause. The Spy gave many in “western Massachusetts” their first view of America’s immortal founding document – even before it became ‘unanimous.’[1]

Item #23800, SOLD — please inquire about other items

The Declaration of Independence –
Rare July 1776 Boston Printing (SOLD)

DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE, The New-England Chronicle, July 18, 1776, Vol. VIII No. 413. Newspaper, with the entire text of the Declaration on page 1 of 4. Subscriber’s name “Mr Jacob Willard” written at top of page 1. Boston: Printed by Powars & Willis.

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Item #21074, SOLD — please inquire about other items

The Declaration of Independence
The Official Massachusetts Broadside (SOLD)

[DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE], Broadside. “Salem, Massachusetts-Bay: Printed by E. [Ezekiel] Russell, by Order of Authority,” ca. July 20, 1776. Approximately 15¾ x 19¾ in.

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Item #22379, SOLD — please inquire about other items

The Declaration of Independence – Printed in 1776 London - Where the Press Feared to Call a Tyrant a Tyrant

DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE, Pamphlet. Gentleman’s Magazine. London, England, August 1776. Octavo. Lacking a plate. Disbound; minimal wear, some pages loose but intact, some foxing or toning, otherwise fine.

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“A ____, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a T____, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people”

For years, American protests were directed at the actions of Parliament, and royal ministers. That changed with the Declaration of Independence, a substantial part of which is framed as a bill of particular offenses against American freedoms personally committed by the King.

The British press could use the words “King,” “Prince,” and “Tyrant,” but many British publishers felt it prudent to avoid printing those words together. Other British printings were even more self-censored, while this printed all the juicy parts.

Item #24195.15, SOLD — please inquire about other items

The United States Constitution – Very Rare October 1, 1787 Connecticut Printing In Bound Volumes of The American Mercury, 1785-1788

[CONSTITUTION], Newspaper. The American Mercury, Two Bound Volumes, published in Hartford, Connecticut, each 10 x 16 in., in original quarter sheepskin and paper boards. Covers inscribed with name of owner*, Charles D’W. Brownell of Bristol, Rhode Island. Vol. IV, No. 169. The first volume contains 99 issues from February 7, 1785 to December 25, 1786, missing seven. The second volume runs from January 1, 1787 to December 29, 1788, likewise missing seven.

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WE, the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common Defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this constitution of the United States of America.”

Item #26054, SOLD — please inquire about other items

Constitutional Convention, Pennsylvania Ratification Debates, More, in 1787 Newspaper Run

[U.S. CONSTITUTION], The Pennsylvania Herald, and General Advertiser, January 3 to December 29, 1787. Philadelphia: Mathew Carey, Christopher Talbot, and William Spotswood. Bound volume of 83 issues of 4 pages each. 332 pp., 11 x 19 x 1½ in. Normally published semi-weekly on Wednesdays and Saturdays, but from September 11 to October 6, it was published on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. (Lacking issues of Jan. 20, 24, 27, 31, Feb. 3, 7, 17, 24, March 17, May 9, 12, 16, 23, July 4, 14, 18, 28, Aug. 11, Sept. 11, 20, 29, Oct. 2, 31, Dec. 1, 5.)

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The year 1776 is celebrated, says a correspondent, for a revolution in favour of liberty. The year 1787, it is expected will be celebrated with equal joy, for a revolution in favour of government. The impatience with which all classes of people wait to receive the new federal constitution, can only be equalled by their zealous determination to support it.” Sept. 8, 1787.

This fascinating extensive run of the Pennsylvania Herald gives a sense of the anticipation over the results of the closed-door U.S. Constitutional Convention, which deliberated from May through September in Philadelphia. It follows with in-depth coverage of the debates in the Pennsylvania Ratification Convention in November and December, also in Philadelphia.

Item #24828, $48,000

Extremely Rare U.S. Constitution—Printed by Albany Federalists to Influence the Election of Delegates to New York’s Bitterly Divided Ratification Convention

[UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION], Articles Agreed upon by the Federal Convention of the United States of America, his Excellency George Washington, Esq; President. In Convention, September 17, 1787…”. Albany: Printed for the Federal Committee by Claxton & Babcock at the Federal Printing Office, [c. March 1788]. 4 pp., 8.66 x 13.6 in. Several numbers penned on the fourth page. Unrecorded in Evans or Bristol.

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We, the People, of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.…”

By 1787, Americans had realized that thirteen independent state governments within a weak association could not stand on their own. The Federal Convention was called, and met in Philadelphia, to improve the Articles of Confederation. The delegates soon agreed that small fixes would not do. Though they were not authorized to propose an entirely new structure of government, they laid one out anyway. Their first draft of the preamble began, “We the people of the States of New Hampshire, Massachusetts....” (naming the 13 states). Their second draft was revised to the now familiar “We, the People of the United States...”

They completed and signed the engrossed manuscript on September 17, 1787. The next day, they sent it, with two cover letter resolutions signed by George Washington, to the Confederation Congress in New York, asking the members to accept it without any changes and to send it to the states for ratification. After three remarkable days of debate, the Representatives of the United States in Congress Assembled agreed.

Over the next ten months, Americans engaged in vigorous debate. Ultimately, the danger of continuing under too weak a government to deal with real problems won out over the fear of government too powerful for its own citizens to be free. Thus, the United States of America was founded by the Constitution, which can also be considered a Declaration of Interdependence. It is not just history, but also technology—a tool for the practical application of knowledge and ingenuity to solve problems.

The Constitution is printed here preceded by the Constitutional Convention’s covering resolution signed by George Washington, submitting the Constitution to Congress with the assurance that “the constitution which we now present, is the result of a spirit of amity,” which “we hope and believe may promote the lasting welfare of that country so dear to us all, and secure her freedom and happiness.”

“It is obviously impracticable in the federal government of these States, to secure all rights of independent sovereignty to each, and yet provide for the interest and safety of all—: Individuals entering into society, must give up a share of liberty to preserve the rest… It is at all times difficult to draw with precision the line between those rights which must be surrendered, and those which may be reserved... this difficulty was encreased by a difference among the several States as to their situation, extent, habits, and particular interests.”

Item #27800, SOLD — please inquire about other items

Rare First Printing of the U.S. Constitution

[U.S. CONSTITUTION], Newspaper. The Independent Gazetteer, or, the Chronicle of Freedom. Philadelphia: Eleazer Oswald, September 19, 1787. 4 pp.

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We, the People of the United States…

This rare complete printing of the Constitution appeared on the first day it was publicly available, Wednesday, September 19, 1787. That same morning, the Constitution was published by four other papers, the Pennsylvania Packet, and Daily Advertiser, Pennsylvania Journal, Pennsylvania Gazette and Freeman’s Journal. The Independent Gazetteer is unique, in that it is the only one of the five first-day printings whose type was evidently not used to print another, stand-alone edition.

Item #27559, SOLD — please inquire about other items

Confederation Congress sends proposed Constitution to the states for ratification

[U.S. CONSTITUTION], Newspaper. The Pennsylvania Packet, and Daily Advertiser. October 1, 1787 (No. 2700), Philadelphia: John Dunlap and David C. Claypoole, including the September 28 resolution of the Confederation Congress to send to the states for ratification the recently completed U. S. Constitution. 4 pp., 12 x 18¾ in.

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Item #24135.99, $6,500

Iconic Pillars Illustration -- Celebrating Massachusetts’ Ratification and the Process of Erecting the “great federal superstructure”

[CONSTITUTION], Newspaper. Massachusetts Centinel, February 13, 1788 (Volume VIII, pp. 171-174). Boston: Benjamin Russell. 4 pp., 9⅝ x 14⅞ in.

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This newspaper is replete with Constitution-related content, including minutes from the debates of Massachusetts’ State Ratifying Convention – everything from discourse on standing armies to Fisher Ames’ hearkening back to 1775 with, “WE MUST UNITE OR DIE”; a poem to Washington on his birthday; a fictional dialogue, The Federal Anti-Federalist, Returned to His Neighbours; a rare example of one of Benjamin Russell’s famed ‘Pillars’ illustration series; and a great deal of reporting on the popular reception of the news of ratification, expressed in particular by an enormous parade and surrounding celebrations.

Item #24836.99, $3,600

Maryland Ratifies the Constitution, Suggests Amendments; and Pennsylvanians Speak Out Against the Slave Trade

[CONSTITUTION], Newspaper. Independent Gazetteer; or, The Chronicle of Freedom, Philadelphia, Pa., May 6, 1788. 4 pp., 9½ x 11½ in.

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The Maryland ratifying convention suggests some amendments along with their approval of the Constitution.

Item #30007.003, $950

Virginia’s Ratification of the U.S. Constitution and Proposals for the Bill of Rights

[U.S. CONSTITUTION, BILL OF RIGHTS], Edmund Pendleton, Manuscript Document Signed, Extracts of Proceedings of Virginia Ratification Convention, June 25-27, 1788. Also signed and attested by John Beckley as secretary. Paper watermarked “Posthorn GR”; countermarked “IV.” 14 pp., 8¾ x 14¾ in.

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Official and attested copy of Virginia’s Ratification of the U.S. Constitution, together with a proposed Declaration of Rights and twenty other proposed amendments to the Constitution, signed by Virginia Ratification Convention President Edmund Pendleton and Secretary John J. Beckley. It is one of only three known surviving sets that the Convention ordered to be engrossed and sent to the other state executives or legislatures. The Convention also ordered that a set be sent to the Confederation Congress.

Item #27341, PRICE ON REQUEST

A History of Harvard University; North Carolina Debates Ratifying the Constitution; and a List of Newly-Minted U.S. Senators

[CONSTITUTION], Magazine. The Columbian Magazine, Philadelphia, Pa., December, 1788. 52 pp., 5 x 8 in. Lacking plates.

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Item #30007.048, $275

Connecticut Prepares for New Federal Constitution, Establishes Plan to Elect Senators and Representatives

[CONNECTICUT]. GEORGE WYLLYS, Printed Document Signed. Acts and Laws, Made and passed by the General Court, or Assembly of the State of Connecticut, in America: holden at New-Haven, (by Adjournment) on the first Thursday of January, Anno Dom. 1789. New Haven: Thomas and Samuel Green, 1789. Signed on first page, and docketed by Wyllys on final page, “Public Acts / Assembly / Jan’y 1789.” 8 pp., 7 ⅜ x 12 ½ in.

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Official printing of the fourteen Acts passed by the Connecticut Assembly in January 1789, includes “An Act for regulating the Election of Senators and Representatives, for this State, in the Congress of the United States.”

Item #24404, $3,750

The New U.S. Senate Considers Bill to Organize the Federal Judiciary: Full Text of the Senate Bill to Establish the Supreme Court, Federal Judicial Districts and Circuit Courts, as Well as the Position of Attorney General

JUDICIARY ACT, U.S. SENATE DRAFT, The Pennsylvania Packet, and Daily Advertiser. Newspaper, June 29, 1789 (No. 3248). Philadelphia: John Dunlap and David C. Claypoole. 4 pp., 11⅜ x 18¼ in.

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the supreme court of the United States shall consist of a chief justice and five associate justices...and shall hold annually at the seat of the federal government two sessions....

The U.S. Constitution provided that the “judicial power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court, and such inferior Courts,” leaving to Congress to establish the details. The Judiciary Act erected a three-tiered federal court system—the Supreme Court, the Courts of Appeals, and the District Courts—essentially the system in place today. The foremost issue was the relative power and authority to be respectively accorded the federal and state courts. The Judiciary Act’s most controversial provision empowered the Supreme Court to hear, at its discretion, appeals of verdicts reached in the state courts whenever those decisions were deemed to raise questions of constitutionality of state or federal laws. 

Item #24830, $1,650

Bill of Rights: First House of Representatives Draft, Rare July 31, 1789 Newspaper Printing

[BILL OF RIGHTS], The Pennsylvania Packet, and Daily Advertiser, July 31, 1789 (No. 3276). Philadelphia: John Dunlap and David C. Claypoole. 4 pp., 11 x 18¼ in.

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On June 8, 1789, Congressman James Madison introduced his summary of proposed amendments to the Constitution. On July 21, John Vining of Delaware was appointed to chair a Committee of 11, with one member representing each state, as Rhode Island and North Carolina had yet to ratify the Constitution, to consider the subject.  This is the Report of Mr. Vining and the Committee “to whom it was referred to take the subject of Amendments to the Constitution of the United States, generally into their consideration...,” in essence the first Congressional draft of the Bill of Rights. The twenty words this report proposed to be added before the introductory phrase “We the people,” were not accepted by Congress. Revisions were made by both the House and the Senate, but within two months, this draft was edited down to twelve proposed amendments that Congress submitted to the states for ratification.

Item #26013.99, $12,000

Bill of Rights - After James Madison’s Initial Proposals, the First Congressional Draft: The Report of the Committee of Eleven (SOLD)

[BILL OF RIGHTS], Newspaper. Gazette of the United States. August 1, 1789. New York: John Fenno. 4 pp. (125-128), 10 x 16 in.

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To ensure ratification of the Constitution, the founding fathers promised that Congress would address guarantees of specific liberties in their first session. After a list of minor textual changes, a series of protections beginning with “No religion shall be established by law, nor shall the equal rights of conscience be infringed” followed by “The freedom of speech, and of the press, and the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and consult for their common good, and to apply to the government for the redress of grievances shall not be infringed” goes on to enumerate most of what would become the Bill of Rights. This is the Report of Mr. Vining and the Committee of Eleven “to whom it was referred to take the subject of Amendments to the Constitution of the United States, generally into their consideration...”  in essence the first Congressional draft of the Bill of Rights submitted to the House of Representatives. Several weeks later, the whole House would take up the Committee report pass an official draft of 17 amendments. The fine-tuning between House and Senate versions would continue for the rest of the Congressional session. But the initial report of the Committee of Eleven was the first time the enumerated amendments were revealed.

Item #23567, SOLD — please inquire about other items

Debating the Bill of Rights Amendments in 1789

[BILL OF RIGHTS], The Pennsylvania Packet, and Daily Advertiser. Newspaper, August 22, 1789 (No. 3295). Philadelphia: John Dunlap and David C. Claypoole. 4 pp., 11⅜ x 18¼ in.

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Mr. [Egbert] Benson [of New York] moved that the words ‘but no person religiously scrupulous shall be compelled to bear arms,’ be struck out. He wished that this humane provision should be left to the wisdom and benevolence of government. It was improper to make it a fundamental in the constitution.”

This issue of the Pennsylvania Packet includes key debates in the House of Representatives on the developing set of amendments that were later ratified as the Bill of Rights. It also prints the Act establishing the War Department.

Item #24831, $7,500

Bill of Rights: Early N.Y. Printing of First Draft Approved by the House of Representatives - 17 Proposed Constitutional Amendments

[BILL OF RIGHTS], Newspaper. Gazette of the United States, August 29, 1789. New York: John Fenno. Includes a complete printing of the first House of Representatives proposal for amending the Constitution on page 2. 4 pp., 10 x 15¾ in.

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Congress shall make no law establishing religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, nor shall the rights of conscience be infringed.

The freedom of speech, and of the press, and the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and consult for their common good, and to apply to the government for a redress of grievances, shall not be infringed.

A well regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, being the best security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed....

After months of work, on August 24, 1789, the House of Representatives approved seventeen Constitutional amendments, including the first to use the exact phrase, “freedom of speech.” This newspaper includes the full text of the resolution sent by the House to the Senate for approval. The Senate began deliberating the next day, approving some articles and rejecting or altering others.

Item #25430, SOLD — please inquire about other items
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