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RARE copy of Declaration of Independence on display in Tulsa

TULSA, Okla. (AP) _ A rare piece of American history will be on display throughout the summer at the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa.

In the 1950s, famed art collector Thomas Gilcrease paid to have a copy of the Declaration of Independence brought to Tulsa permanently.

At least nine handwritten copies were made of the document shortly after it was approved by the Continental Congress in 1776. The copies were to be sent to European governments to announce the formation of the United States of America.

Benjamin Franklin personally took the museum's copy to Paris and forwarded it to the King of Prussia. No one knows how the document made it back to this country.

In the late 1940s, it rolled through Tulsa as part of the Freedom Train, a rail-mounted traveling exhibit of American artifacts. Gilcrease saw the exhibit and in the 1950s paid for it to come to Tulsa.

Normally, the manuscript sits in an airtight vault in the museum's basement, where the temperature and humidity can be carefully regulated to protect the fragile document.

But the public is getting this rare opportunity to view the document on display.

The document bears the signatures of Franklin and Revolutionary hero Silas Deane to certify its authenticity.

It looks nothing like the original document, which is on permanent display in Washington. Instead of one large scroll, the copy is seven-pages long and written in small, hard-to-read lettering.

The museum's copy is the oldest known to exist, and seeing it can be an awe-inspiring experience.

``It makes you feel close to the event, to the history,'' said Gilcrease Associate Director Brent Vawter. ``This is one of the most priceless documents in America, and it's right here in Tulsa.''

The exhibit also includes personal letters from Franklin and a handwritten letter from Thomas Jefferson dated July 1, 1776, telling a friend he was drafting the declaration.
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