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The Declaration of Independence (1911)

We see Jefferson writing the declaration with extracts from the famous document and the next morning the argument and final adoption of it by Congress, while John Adams' son, afterward the ... See full summary »




Cast overview:
Harry Linson ...
Robert Emmett Tansey ...
John Quincy Adams (as Robert Tansey)
Wadsworth Harris ...
Jack Chagnon ...
R.R. Livingston


We see Jefferson writing the declaration with extracts from the famous document and the next morning the argument and final adoption of it by Congress, while John Adams' son, afterward the sixth President of the United States, has stationed himself at the door to listen for the news so that he may notify the old bell ringer in the tower of Independence Hall and enable him to send the news broadcast through the city by the iron tongue of the old liberty bell. Written by Moving Picture World synopsis

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Plot Keywords:

patriotism | See All (1) »


Drama | Short





Release Date:

1 September 1911 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

United States History Series #4: The Declaration of Independence  »

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Technical Specs

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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User Reviews

This film will make an epoch in educational films
5 April 2016 | by (Chicago) – See all my reviews

How many of us as children recall the long labored effort to commit to memory that famous Declaration of Independence, and, after succeeding, immediately show our independence by forgetting it in our "pursuit for Life, Liberty and Happiness." What did it all mean? Nothing to us; yet we all passed through the age when history is taught us, or, as some of our more interesting neighbors would say, "learned us." Great is the teacher who can with some effort make us do the learning. This has been accomplished by the wonderful picture produced by the Edison Company, entitled "The Declaration of Independence." In this picture we are at first introduced to Mr. and Mrs. Adams' home, and a charming picture it is, showing the refinement and simplicity of the early colonial days and being, in and of itself, a wonderful study of antique furnishings, as the detail is perfect. In the home we find Mr. and Mrs. Adams and young John Quincy Adams (afterwards President of the United States), a rare young rebel who, inspired by the gossip and tales of his father and friends, would in his vigor have sent the entire British army into the Atlantic Ocean. The next scene we see young John Quincy Adams in company with his father, John Hancock, Benjamin Franklin and other prominent men, starting for the first Philadelphia Congress, and here we have a charming expression or motherly interest betrayed in the character of Mrs. John Adams, for young John in his intense feeling has concealed beneath the folds of his cape his father's sword; his mother, retaining the sword, sends her "men folk" out to battle, with a blessing for their safe return. Independence Hall: A great group of men, all the leadership of the day and all the hope for the future. How interesting it is to watch the long efforts of these men to avoid the war which began at Lexington. Some very excellent facial work has been accomplished in this picture and in what line of art is it more desirable and necessary? A large percentage of the understanding of a film is hinged on facial work, especially as some of the exhibitors are so careless about sub-titles. It is also most impressive to note the difference between the plain types of American architecture, severe and simple, and the rich architecture of the English castle where George III received the Colonists who submit to him the Petition, which he returns with an answer that irritates them. Attention should be centered on the exceedingly attractive picture showing the men entering Independence Hall and young John Adams waiting to ring the bell that was to be the signal of the passing of the bill. The wide spaces and the tall Doric columns give such a sense of magnitude. The grouping of the men, young Adams in the distance. Thomas Jefferson in a black velvet suit, and the stooping old figure in the foreground. The very attitude of the figures are impressing and the sense of largeness is one many of the manufacturers might copy. So the story carries us on to the ringing of the Bell of Liberty, which, by the way, I informed the manufacturers was too large, but was assured by them that it only measured one foot (a very insignificant amount) from the original. Analyzing my feelings I, too, felt the intense interest of the moment. It was a feeling of excitement that prompted the thought that a long time was required to ring the bell. But the film as a whole, here we have a mere fact, no romantic story, just plain history, and the manufacturers deserve great credit for the way they have put life and interest into so dry a document as this "Declaration." Even the school histories today give a condensed form. Oh! Why were we born so long ago? From a photographic standpoint and a study in expression, the details of the costumes and stage settings are perfect and a veritable study in antique decorations. All these points go to make the film so useful educationally. For of what value is it to have a story, even a historical story, developed that is so untrue in its surroundings that one is not sure if it is history or simply romance? Here is a great, dry essay, speech, call it what you will, vitalized and developed into living, breathing history, of intense interest to every American born or American adopted man or woman. Something should be said for the splendid way in which the actors and actresses have worked out their parts. I think there must be something inspiring about it to make these actors and actresses feel so keenly the spirit of the time. It is especially interesting to watch the struggle of Thomas Jefferson, as through the night he writes and plans; to see the expression of fear and doubt, interest and hope on the faces of the men who come in the early morning hour to read what he has written. The words that were to flash down into the ages and make us what we are today. The boyish impatience of young John Quincy Adams appeals to us, as also does the helpless old man as he totters up the steps and impatiently awaits the signal to sound the Liberty Bell; the wild, anxious crowd of men and women whose very backs are potent with interest as John Hancock reads to them the stirring words. Photographically, this especial scene deserves credit. It is wonderfully well posed. If all history could come to us in so happy a way, we would hot have to be "taught." Somebody in that studio must be afflicted with an "artistic temperament" and recognizes his blessing. This film will make an epoch in educational films and, if we have many more like them, students will surely find lessons their recreation. - The Moving Picture World, September 9, 1911

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