Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Search challenge (7/3/2013): When was it signed?

This sounds like it should be a simple question: 

On what day was the US Declaration of Independence signed? 

But, like all of our search challenges, there's more to this than meets the eye.   Even though this seems dead obvious, finding the actual answer requires a bit more sleuthing... and--more to the point--a deep, abiding willingness to check out things you're just SURE you know already off the top of your head.  

Since this is a holiday edition of the challenge, this won't take you long.  But it will provide you something to chat about over the July 4th barbecue.  

Just give us a quick answer (and, of course, say how you came to that conclusion)!  

Search on! 


  1. Answer: August 2, 1776.
    Time: seconds.

    Either I'm wrong, very lucky or very fast. :)

    My first thought was: this is the kind of stuff that is scrupulously analyzed on the Wikipedia article about the US Declaration of Independence.

    So I selected the entire question, hoping that "On what day was" wouldn't affect the results and right-clicked on it, choosing "Search Google for…" from the menu. I guess this context menu search is a standard option on Google Chrome, and I use it a lot.

    The first search result was, as I expected, the Wikipedia article United States Declaration of Independence.

    CTRL+F [ signed ] to find the word "signed" on this page, hoping to find the sentence "was signed on" on the first paragraphs. Just below the first instance of "signed" my eyes immediately detected the sentence "Although the wording of the Declaration was approved on July 4, the date of its signing was August 2."

    A footnote to that sentence links to a press release from the National Archives. Its title is "Did You Know…Independence Day Should Actually Be July 2?" July? Oops. Trickier than I thought… So let's proceed.

    I opened that link. Confident that this kind of error is extremely uncommon on the Wikipedia, I consciously ignored the confirmation bias and looked for "August 2" on the page. Bingo: "The written Declaration of Independence was dated July 4 but wasn't actually signed until August 2."

    The whole press release is quite interesting. A nitpicky note: the next sentence reveals that August 2 is the correct answer for the first signatures but not for all: "Fifty-six delegates eventually signed the document, although all were not present on that day in August."

    1. Excellent answer. Being aware of confirmation bias is the first step towards avoiding it in your work!

  2. Good day, Dr. Russell, fellow SearchResearchers


    [US Declaration of Independence]

    Found: There found: "The Declaration of Independence: A History. Site contains interseting data.

    [us declaration of independence signed date]


    And to
    find "So what did happen on July 4, 1776? The Continental Congress approved the final wording of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. Also found, independence was formally declared on July 2, 1776

    This day in History: August 2, 1976.

    July 4, 1976

    Jul 2, 1776
    catId=1 Found: Resolution for independence from Great Britain had originally been presented to Congress on June 7.


    On what day was the US Declaration of Independence signed?
    A. August 2, 1776.

    Have a great 4th of July, Dr. Russell.

    1. Nicely done. And for a follow-up question, when is Independence Day for Mexico? (I think the answer will surprise some people from the US!)

    2. Thanks, Dr. Russell. Hope you having a great day.

      Independence of Mexico is celebrated on September 16. Many mistake it with "5 de Mayo" that commemorates the Mexican army's 1862 victory over France at the Battle of Puebla during the French-Mexican War. Link with more details:

      Mexico Independence began on September 16, 1810 with Miguel Hidalgo "Grito de Dolores" and ended on September 27, 1821.

  3. I ran a google search for "declaration actually signed" and the first result I got was a national archives press release saying that Independence Day should actually be July 2 since that was when the Continental Congress voted for Independence, although the Declaration itself wasn't signed until August 2.

  4. [national archives declaration of independence history]

    Answer: Mostly on Aug 2 1776 although some signed later and some not at all.


  5. I receive regular updates from National Geographic online and I recalled there was an article about the Declaration of Independence so I started there. I have copied one of the myths mentioned at this link (check link for the other eight).
    1. The Declaration of Independence Was Signed on July 4
    Independence Day is celebrated two days too late. The Second Continental Congress voted for a Declaration of Independence on July 2, prompting John Adams to write his wife, "I am apt to believe that [July 2, 1776], will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival."Adams correctly foresaw shows, games, sports, buns, bells, and bonfires—but he got the date wrong. The written document wasn't edited and approved until the Fourth of July, and that was the date printers affixed to "broadside" announcements sent out across the land. July 2 was soon forgotten.(Related: "U.S. Independence Celebrated on the Wrong Day?")
    In fact, no one actually signed the Declaration of Independence at any time during July 1776. Signing began on August 2, with John Hancock's famously bold scribble, and wasn't completed until late November.
    Second webpage
    Provides further details about the creation, delivery and signing.
    Happy Independence Day from your neighbors to the north.

    Time was very brief, unusual for me.

  6. a couple alternative timelines and considerations:
    the term "engrossed" and last signer? Matthew Thornton vs Thomas McKean for example…
    signed vs published vs printed vs draft vs edited…
    a timeline
    50 "facts"
    see date, engrossed copy:
    LOC broadside

    also working on "When Egypt gained its independence?"… also fuzzy

  7. As this is a fun hol question and obviously slightly more complicated than one might think, I am simply going to offer up that July 4, 1776 was a Thursday and Aug 2 was a Friday.
    Thanks to wolfram alpha for those. Under anniversaries for 2 Aug it states the signing was that day by the 2nd congress.
    Happy Independence Day to the citizens of the USA from the political entity you threw out ;)

    1. Thanks from the colonies, Ms. George. Thought you might be amused by this… although the elements of the "Jack" might quibble? Independence is a valuable, but ephemeral state - maybe it should be Happy Interdependence Day. ;•0

    2. Ha - indeed. I like the Union Jack one - very true.
      Sadly though, you missed the country which I am actually from which is Wales!

      Think our dragon is more exciting than the others!
      Too exciting to be included in the Union Jack - that's my story anyway and I'm sticking to it :)

  8. Actually signed on August 2, 1776, even though it was dated July 4, 1776. Went to government archives and found it in a few seconds.

  9. [Image search] > 10 fascinating facts about the Declaration of Independence > Answer to 6th question says it was in early August 1776 in Philadelphia > [in early August 1776 in Philadelphia] > 1st result says the answer as 2nd aug, 1776.

    time 1-2 mins. I use gprs connection.

  10. Opps I left something, Its [john trumbull's declaration of independence] where i got the 10 fascinating facts thingy.


    Googled "when were all signatures declaration of independence" - most signatures were added on Aug 2, however there were some that were added after that.

    "...most delegates signed on August 2nd, and that those eventual signers who were not present, added their names later."

    So, given that - I'd say the answer is "Unknown" !

  12. I searched for Declaration of Independence signed and found an article from called 9 things you might not know about the Declaration and first answer was - 1. The Declaration of Independence wasn’t signed on July 4, 1776. It gave me the info that most of the signers did so on Aug. 2 but several—Elbridge Gerry, Oliver Wolcott, Lewis Morris, Thomas McKean and Matthew Thornton—signed on a later date. (Two others, John Dickinson and Robert R. Livingston, never signed at all.) On the same search results page I found another article from our that gave the same information. There as also a link to a US Archives site with the same information. I felt these were all reputable sources and since they all confirmed the Aug. 2 date I was confident this was the correct answer (acknowledging that not everyone signed on this day).