Found: A Unique, Handwritten Copy of the Declaration of Independence


Before Danielle Allen and Emily Sneff found a copy of the Declaration of Independence in an obscure British archive, the only known 18th century, handwritten copy of the U.S.’s founding document was the one housed in the National Archives in Washington, D.C.

In August 2015, though, the two Harvard researchers uncovered a copy of the Declaration created in the 1780s, in connection with the Constitutional Convention. They found it in the West Sussex Records Office, in Chichester, England.

Besides being an extremely rare copy of the Declaration, this document has an intriguing feature: the signatures of the men who put their name to the Declaration have been reordered.

In 2014, Allen, a professor at Harvard and a political theorist, published Our Declaration: A Reading of Read the rest

Is It Safe To Eat Moldy Bread?

You may be tempted to save a piece of a moldy loaf by discarding the fuzzy bits. But food safety experts say molds penetrate deeper into the food than what

No, say food safety experts. Molds can easily penetrate deep into a soft food, like bread. But you can salvage other foods with tougher surfaces, like cabbages, carrots and hard cheeses.

(Image credit: Alex Reynolds/NPR)

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Colonial America Was Built on Lottery Revenue


In the late 19th century, Ainsworth Rand Spofford, the sixth Librarian of Congress, went looking through America’s early newspapers for the the earliest notice of a lottery he could find. What he found had been published in February 1720, in the American Weekly Mercury. This lottery was not the colonies’ first, Spofford cautions—only the first for which he could find a printed notice. The ad promised 350 tickets would be sold, for 20 shillings a piece.

The prize? “A new brick house, corner of Third and Arch,” in Philadelphia.

As Philadelphia came to surpass Boston as the colonies’ largest city, its growth was funded in no small part by lotteries. “It was looked upon as a kind of voluntary tax for paving streets, erecting wharves, buildings, … Read the rest

Coco de mer: The Forbidden Fruit

In the islands of Praslin and Curieuse, in the Seychelles, grows one of the most exclusive palm trees in the world. The coco de mer (Lodoicea maldivica) has tall slender trunks that rise more than 30 meters above the ground. At its crown is a mass of fronds, with leaf blades fanning out nearly five meters across. On mature individuals, the leaves are often fringed at the edges. Their withered ends hang from the palm below the vibrant, healthy green crown.

Possibly the most renowned feature of coco de mer are its enormous seeds—the largest and heaviest seeds in the plant world. But it is the shape and not the size of the seeds, that makes coco de mer famous; the seeds bear an … Read the rest