Historic U.S. artifacts have visited Utah

Published: Monday, Nov. 30 2009 12:00 a.m. MST

In February 2002 at the opening of the Salt Lake Winter Olympic Games, a rare copy of the Dunlap printing of the Declaration of Independence is displayed. The document was printed on the night of July 4, 1776, and few remain. This is the copy that was found behind a picture frame, bought for a few dollars and later sold for nearly $2 million.

Deseret News Archives

A trip through the nation's history usually requires a visit to Washington D.C., Philadelphia or Boston.

On occasion, however, history has come to Utah.

In July of 1915, tens of thousands of Utahns in Salt Lake City and Ogden flocked to railroad depots to see the Liberty Bell.

More than 30 years later, the Freedom Train, carrying priceless historic documents, made a one-day stop in Salt Lake, as thousands of Utahns lined up to see George Washington's copy of the U.S. Constitution and the manuscript copy of the Gettysburg Address. In 1975, a second Freedom Train made a five-and-a-half-day stop in Utah.

And during the 2002 Olympic Games, one of 25 surviving copies of the Declaration of Independence was on display in the state Capitol.

On each of these occasions, Deseret News photographers were on the scene, and photo researcher Ron Fox has collected many of these photos, which can now be seen on the newspaper Web site at deseretnews.com.

The Liberty Bell was in Utah for one day in 1915, arriving on a train of eight cars and accompanied by members of Philadelphia's City Council. After Salt Lake crowds had a chance to admire the artifact of America's independence, the bell arrived in Ogden where, according to a story in the July 12, 1915, Ogden Standard:

"The 'Liberty Bell' has arrived and departed, but the memory of it, doubtless, will live in the hearts of approximately 30,000 people of Ogden and northern Utah, who viewed it yesterday afternoon at the local Union depot, for the spirit that emanated from the vast throng as it passed in solid columns before the sacred relic was evidence that they were present, not through idle curiosity, but through a feeling of inborn reverence, love, loyalty and patriotism."

On March 23, 1948, the seven-car Freedom Train arrived in Utah for a one-day stay, and from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Utahns lined up to see original copies of the Declaration of Independence, Bill of Rights, Emancipation Proclamation and 100 other historic documents.

The March 24, 1948, Deseret News reported the arrival of the train:

"Thousands of Salt Lake children — and a sprinkling of grown-ups — waited long hours in line today for a look at the historic documents on the Freedom Train.

"'It gives you a funny feeling when you really see the papers your history teachers have always talked about,' one of the children commented as she gazed in awe at the original manuscript of 'The Star-Spangled Banner.' "

A second Freedom Train visited Utah in 1975 as part of a 33,000-mile journey throughout the country in anticipation of the nation's Bicentennial celebration.

The train received an enthusiastic welcome in Salt Lake City when, according to an Oct. 25, 1975 Deseret News article, LDS Church President Spencer W. Kimball "joined United States astronauts and Russian cosmonauts Oct. 16 in a ribbon-cutting ceremony, signaling the opening of the American Freedom Train in Salt Lake City.

"During a short ceremony, President Kimball was given a color photograph of the church's display of an original copy of the Book of Mormon which is exhibited on the train. When Petr L. Spurney, president of the American Freedom Train Foundation, announced that the Book of Mormon was included among the valuable documents on the train, the huge audience gave a hearty applause," the article said.

In February and March of 2002, while Utah was hosting the world at the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, a rare copy of the Declaration of Independence, one of 200 printed by John Dunlap in July 1776, was on display in the state Capitol.

The display was popular with students. In a story in the Feb. 2, 2002, Deseret News, staff writer Elizabeth White wrote:

" 'To see it firsthand is exciting,' said Nick Rose, a member of a Kearns Scout group visiting the display, which sits in the Capitol Rotunda and includes video, music and other media. 'There's not a part of it that bores you.' "

e-mail: mhaddock@desnews.com

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