Photographic copies of the original U.S. Constitution are being shared with local elementary schools, courtesy of the Great Bend Rotary Club. Heading into the Thanksgiving holiday, the photos were displayed at Eisenhower Elementary School, next to a display about President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Great Bend Rotary President Dr. Patrick Stang said the photos are a great way to study and appreciate this important document, the basis of our governmental structure.
Stang included the following information:
The writing and ratification of the U.S. Constitution was a long and tortuous road, and so was the bringing of original photographs of the document to be displayed sequentially in the Great Bend schools.
In 1976, Barbara Wilson McMahon, while working for the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington, D.C., was chosen to be on the committee for the celebration of the 200th anniversary of the signing of the constitution. The committee members were given photographic copies of the constitution to give to benefactors, and Barbara gave hers to Jane Sallee, with whom she had been a classmate in high school in Topeka, class of 1944.
Jane then gave the photos to a local Rotarian, Pat Cale, here in Great Bend, and he gave them to USD 428 to be framed and displayed. The Great Bend Rotary club also contributed funds to help with the framing. Jane Sallee died on May 13, 2016, before the framing was completed, though she was aware of the project.
The large original photos are now being displayed and rotated sequentially in the Great Bend schools for the staff, students and public to study and enjoy. The fact that they are photos of the original document can be seen in the ink blots, water marks and misspellings, such as the word “Pensylvania” just above the signers’ names.
After 100 days of debate, it was written out by Jacob Shallus, a Pennsylvania clerk, for the sum of $30. The document contains 7,591 words, including the 27 amendments, and is written on four sheets, 28 3/4 by 23 5/8 inches each. It is the shortest and oldest written constitution of any major government.
Of the 42 delegates to the constitutional convention, 39 signed the document. George Mason, Edmund Randolph and Elbridge Gerry refused to sign as there was no Bill of Rights in the original work. As he was in France at the time, Thomas Jefferson did not sign it either, nor did Patrick Henry who, although elected to be a delegate, refused to attend the convention as he “smelt a rat.” Ben Franklin was the oldest signer at age 81; Jonathan Dayton of New Jersey was the youngest at age 26. George Washington and James Madison were the only two presidents to sign it.
The constitution was ratified by the states beginning in December 1787, with Rhode Island being the last state to ratify it in 1790.
The original constitution is kept on display in the National Archives Building in Washington, D.C. under protective glass in titanium frames filled with argon gas, at 67 degrees F and 40% humidity.