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U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights

Portion of the 1788 handwritten copy of the Constitution
A small portion of the 1788 copy of the Constitution.
The entire document is available digitally from the NYS Archives.

September 2016

The New York State Library, in conjunction with the State Archives, will celebrate Constitution Day on Saturday, September 17 with a public display of New York State's handwritten 1788 copy of the United States Constitution, from the convention in Poughkeepsie where it was ratified.

The Constitution Day exhibition will be held on the 7th floor of the Cultural Education Center at 222 Madison Avenue in Albany on Saturday, September 17 from 9:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.


copies of a pocket-sized edition of the constitution

In addition, free pocket-sized copies of the Constitution will be distributed on a first come, first-served basis; one per visitor while quantities last. A digital talking book of the Constitution from the New York State Talking Book and Braille Library (TBBL) will be available for TBBL patrons as well.

A founding document of our country and our democracy, the United States Constitution was created on September 17, 1787. The document was considered by New York delegates who met in Poughkeepsie (The Poughkeepsie Convention), and after lengthy debates they voted to ratify the Constitution on July 26, 1788. New York was the eleventh state to ratify.

The text of the Constitution was engrossed (written in a large, legible hand) on parchment (treated sheepskin). The engrossed copy of the U.S. Constitution and the manuscript journal of the Poughkeepsie Convention were in a locked safe when the State Capitol burned in 1911. They were preserved from destruction and today they are among the treasured documents of the New York State Archives.

middle display case

The first newspaper printing of the finished U.S. Constitution appeared in the September 19, 1787 issue of The Pennsylvania Packet and Daily Advertiser. This newspaper was the first to print the finished Constitution because it was printed by Claypoole & Dunlap, which had been printing the drafts of the Constitution all along. In time, every American newspaper published the complete text of the U.S. Constitution. The printing of the finished Constitution in the newspapers gave every citizen the opportunity to read the document that their representatives had produced. On display in this case are copies of two of the newspapers from 1787 which published the text of U.S. Constitution: New Haven Gazette from September 27, 1787 and the Hudson Weekly Gazette from September 27, 1787.


right display case

Also on display is a selection of titles from our Federal Document Depository collection that relate to the U.S. Constitution, ranging from promotional materials for Constitution Day (or Week) to information about the Bill of Rights to a musical skit for children about the Constitutional Convention.


Words We Live By, part of a federal document
Constitution Week, September 17-23. Washington, D.C.: Commission on the Bicentennial of the United States Constitution, 1991.
NYSL Call Number: Y 3.B 47:2:2 C 76/6/991

One of three reproducible advertisements that were created to publicize Constitution Week, September 17-23, 1991.

Covers from A Musical Skit for Cheldren
Covers of A Musical Skit for Children on the Constitutional Convention, published by the Commission on the Bicentennial of the United States Constitution (January 1987). The cover image is reproduced from "Scene of the signing of the Constitution of the United States," by Howard Chandler Christy.


The annual celebration of Constitution Day is an opportunity for the over 3,000 official depositories of federal publications, in print and online, to share their rich resources with the public. The New York State Library, one of the oldest depositories in the country, was founded in 1818.  It is the largest depository in the state of New York and its holdings include both federal and state documents. As the New York State regional depository for U.S. government publications, the State Library receives and permanently keeps a copy of every document distributed under the Government Printing Office Depository Library Program.

Exhibit curated by Cara Janowsky and Samantha Berry

Last Updated: September 30, 2022