American Treasures: Documenting the Nation’s Founding

Explore American Treasures: Documenting the Nation's Founding, featuring five priceless drafts of the U.S. Constitution, including Pennsylvania delegate James Wilson's own handwritten drafts. 

American Treasures: Documenting the Nation’s Founding explores the drafting of the U.S. Constitution in 1787, highlighting the key proposals and significant compromises that influenced the early drafts and shaped the document’s final text. Visitors are introduced to the crucial figures who played a role in shaping the Constitution – from James Madison to James Wilson, America’s most important champion of popular sovereignty, or government by “We the People,” and Gouverneur Morris, often credited as the primary writer of the Constitution’s final text.

American Treasures also explores the battle to secure a Bill of Rights through rare newspaper prints from 1789. Visitors can follow along to see how the Bill of Rights changed from what James Madison originally proposed in the House of Representatives to the familiar Amendments that we know today.

The exhibit includes some of the most significant constitutional treasures in American history, tracing the origin of the new form of government created by the Framers here in Philadelphia during the summer of 1787. From the vast collections of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, these treasures include James Wilson’s Report of the Convention’s Resolutions, the first draft of what would become the Constitution; James Wilson’s Manuscript of the Committee of Detail Report, a priceless document written by Wilson himself while serving on the committee that created the next iteration of the Constitution’s text; and the Official Printing of the Constitution from September 17, 1787. All future printings of the U.S. Constitution originated from this broadside published by Philadelphia printers John Dunlap and David Claypoole.

As a bonus for our website users, the National Constitution Center’s American Treasures Interactive (at https://treasures.constitutioncenter.orglets you browse four rare draft copies of the Constitution and its first printed final version.


Also displayed in American Treasures:

  • Proof Copy of the Committee of Detail Report, August 4-5, 1787, annotated by Edmund Randolph—the only corrected version of this report that exists (Historical Society of Pennsylvania).
  • Committee of Style Report, September 12, 1787, annotated by Jacob Broom—one of only 14 copies of this report known to survive (Historical Society of Pennsylvania).
  • Proposals for a Bill of Rights, Gazette of the United States, June 13, 1789 (David Rubenstein).
  • Report on Madison’s Proposals, Gazette of the United States, August 1, 1789 (David Rubenstein).
  • 17 Amendments Passed by House, The Daily Advertiser, August 26, 1789 (David Rubenstein).
  • 12 Amendments Passed by Senate, The New-York Journal, and Weekly Register, September 17, 1789 (David Rubenstein).
  • The Bill of Rights, Gazette of the United States, October 3, 1789 (David Rubenstein).


American Treasures: Documenting the Nation’s Founding was created in partnership with the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

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