Published: March 5, 2002
WILLIAMSBURG, VA. – One of America’s most important historic sites is receiving one of the most significant private collections of US historical documents ever assembled.
The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation announced that it will receive one of the rare “Stone” copies of the Declaration of Independence, a complete set of autographs of the 56 signers of the Declaration and a collection of American presidential autographs from George Washington to Ronald Reagan. A gift from Jerry and Pat Epstein of Los Angeles, the collection has a potential value of $1 million.
In 1823, then Secretary of State John Quincy Adams commissioned Washington, D.C., engraver William J. Stone (1798-1865) to reproduce the Declaration of Independence. Stone painstakingly engraved the text onto a copper plate and produced 201 parchment copies, hence the name “Stone facsimiles.” Of the 201 originals, only 31 have been located.
The “Fields set” of autographs of all 56 signers of the Declaration includes a collection of several dozen signed letters and documents assembled by Dr Joseph Fields, an authority on historic signatures. The Epsteins acquired the collection in 1985 from an auction at Sotheby’s. The following year they acquired the “James Ruddy Collection,” a collection of autographs of American presidents from Washington to Reagan.
“This gift has special significance for Colonial Williamsburg, where we make American history come alive every day for our visitors, and strive to preserve and present the town that figured so prominently in our nation’s founding,” said Colonial Williamsburg president and chairman Colin G. Campbell. “This outstanding collection is a tangible reminder of our country’s struggle for freedom and how America’s forefathers and leaders secured and preserved our core values and ideals.”
Jerry and Pat Epstein testify to a lifelong appreciation of American history. “We think it is vital that Americans, and indeed all people, have an opportunity to see these historic treasures,” they explained. “We look forward to the public display of our collection, enhanced by Colonial Williamsburg’s innovative interpretations.”
Objects from the Epstein collection will undergo preservation and conservation before being displayed at Colonial Williamsburg’s DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum.
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