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Exhibit Explores Power of Press in 18th Century

A new exhibit at the Newseum tells the story of the Declaration of Independence as a graphic novel

A new exhibit at the Newseum tells the story of the Declaration of Independence as a graphic novel

Clearly, there was no social media or television to spread the word when America declared its independence from Britain in 1776.

Information about the American Revolution came from newspapers.

An exhibit at the Newseum in Washington D.C. shows the power of newspapers in 18th century America. The Newseum is a museum about the news and reporting.

Patty Rhule is exhibit development director for the Newseum. She said: “The exhibit tells the story of the printers and publishers in colonial America who helped make the case for independence, who fanned the flames of revolution.”

The Pennsylvania Evening Post was first to publish the freedoms called for in America’s Declaration of Independence.

“Today, we get news over our Facebook feeds, or on Twitter, or Instagram, or on the radio or on television,” Rhule said. “Back then, newspapers were it.”

She said newspapers were used to debate the big issues of the day. That included the emotional arguments over whether America should or should not leave Britain.

The Newseum has on display all four pages of the 240-year-old newspaper. It is one of only 19 known copies.

The case for independence was made in publications like Common Sense, a pamphlet written by Thomas Paine. The publication gave Paine’s arguments for American independence. He is known as one of America’s Founding Fathers.

Rhule said Common Sense reached a huge number of colonists at the time.

“America was one of the most literate countries at the time,” Rhule said. “Almost half of the people who could read had heard -- or read parts -- of Common Sense, which is incredible when you think about it.”

I’m Marsha James.

Julie Taboh reported on this story for Bruce Alpert adapted this story for Learning English. Mario Ritter was the editor.

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Words in This Story

exhibit -- n. an object or a collection of objects that have been put out in a public space for people to look at

printer -- n. a person or company that puts out books, newspapers or magazines

colonial -- adj. of or relating to the original 13 colonies forming the United States

flames -- n. creating support for a cause

pamphlet -- n. a small, thin book with no cover or only a paper cover that has information about a particular subject

incredible -- adj. difficult to believe

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