Found in rare copy of Ben Franklin-owned newspaper, first news coverage of the Declaration of Independence

It’s fitting, really, that a newspaper owned by Ben Franklin landed the scoop of the century.

But talk about burying the lede.

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Photo: American Gallery

While the Fourth of July holiday gets all the ink these days – and air time, and web traffic – it was the humble July 2 that was first announced as the birthday of the United States.

And it was announced on page 2 of Benjamin Franklin’s the Pennsylvania Gazette, below classified ads for runaway slaves.

“Philadelphia, July 3: Yesterday the Continental Congress declared the United Colonies free and independent states.”

A copy of the July 3, 1776, issue of the Gazette was sold at auction last month, according to the Deseret News of Salt Lake City. Part of a run of about 1,000 copies, and one of only a handful that still exist, the issue was purchased for $15,757 by Brent Ashworth of Provo, Utah.

A collector for 60 years, Ashworth said he never thought he’d get a chance at a July 3, 1776, edition of the Gazette, but leaped at the chance when one appeared in a catalog of the online site RR Auction.

“I was shocked,” Ashworth told the News “It’s a very rare paper. … It’s a great piece.”

Rare and beautiful. No endless hours of talking heads on cable, no graphics on a screen (showing a snake cut into 13 parts maybe), no email blasts. Not even a gaseous president saying “let me be perfectly clear” about a subject then making a hash of it.

“Philadelphia, July 3: Yesterday the Continental Congress declared the United Colonies free and independent states.”

Even with the dateline, it could have fit into a tweet.

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