A closer look at John Trumbull's "Declaration of Independence" as seen on our littlest-used piece of U.S. currency — the $2 bill.
Slideshow by Luke Crafton | Posted 1.15.2010
In the summer of 2004 a guest named Gary, a self-professed "dumpster diver," came to the ROADSHOW event in Reno, Nevada, with a beaten-up old print he said he'd found among trash gathered from a vacated house. He decided to hold on to it, and after showing it to appraiser Christopher Lane, Gary was pleased to learn that the 1820 print, made from an iconic work by American painter John Trumbull, had historical significance in addition to its value of $800 to $900.
Viewers might recognize the scene in Gary's print from a piece of U.S. currency still in print but rarely encountered in common circulation today: the two-dollar bill. The note bears a portrait of President Thomas Jefferson on the front.
The reverse features an engraving of Trumbull's painting titled "Declaration of Independence," which shows a draft of the declaration being presented to the presiding officer of the Second Continental Congress by a group of delegates. The design was released In 1976 to commemorate the nation's bicentennial.
Trumbull painted many of the men in the work from life, and the scene depicts several of America's best-known founding fathers. In the foreground (from left to right) John Adams, Roger Sherman, Robert Livingston, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin stand in front of a table at which is seated John Hancock, who served as president of the Continental Congress that declared independence from Great Britain in July 1776.
Trumbull was commissioned in 1817 to create the massive oil painting on canvas, measuring 12 by 18 feet. It has hung in the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol since 1826.