Syng inkstand

Syng Inkstand
Artist Philip Syng
Year 1752
Type silver inkstand
Location Independence National Historical Park, Philadelphia

The Syng inkstand is a silver inkstand used during the signing of the United States Declaration of Independence in 1776 and the United States Constitution in 1787. Aside from paper documents, it is one of four physical objects that were present during the Constitutional Convention known to still exist (with a reasonable degree of certainty), along with Independence Hall itself, the Liberty Bell, and the chair that George Washington sat in as the Constitutional Convention's presiding officer.

The inkstand was made by Philip Syng in 1752 for the provincial assembly of Pennsylvania.[1] Both a work of art and an important historical artifact, the Syng inkstand was used by such prominent Founding Fathers of the United States as Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Hancock, John Adams, James Madison, and the other signers of the founding documents.[2]

Desktop inkstands hold ink for quill pens and other implements that require an external source of ink. Ornate versions include a pen holder, an inkpot, a candle to melt sealing wax, and a pot similar to a salt or pepper shaker used to pour pounce to aid in the sizing of parchment or velum.[3] The Syng inkstand is decorated in late Rococo style and includes, from left to right in the image shown, a pounce pot, quill holder, and inkpot.

Syng, who had immigrated to the United States from Ireland in 1713, was a renowned silversmith who created fine works in silver, and sometimes gold, for the rich families of Philadelphia. He was an associate of Benjamin Franklin and a prominent member of the Philadelphia community[2] who assisted in the founding of the Library Company of Philadelphia, the American Philosophical Society, the Union Fire Company, and the University of Pennsylvania.[4]

The Syng inkstand became the property of the state of Pennsylvania, and was moved to the state capital in Harrisburg soon after the Constitutional Convention ended. In 1876, on the first centennial of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the inkstand was returned to the City of Philadelphia where it became famous.[2] For a time it was displayed in Independence Hall on a desk in front of George Washington's chair, and was considered such an important artifact that in 1922, when cracks in the plaster ceiling of Independence Hall stoked fears that the building would collapse, the inkstand was removed at the same time that the first floor of the building was cleared of visitors.

The National Park Service inherited the inkstand when they took over maintenance of Independence Hall from the City of Philadelphia.[5] It is now on display in a special case in Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia, along with copies of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.[2]

See also


  1. Weigley, Russell Frank, Wainwright, Nicholas B., and Wolf, Edwin (1982). Philadelphia. W.W. Norton and Company. pp. 97–98. ISBN 978-0-393-01610-9.
  2. 1 2 3 4 Vile, John R. (2005). The Constitutional Convention of 1787: A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of America's Founding. ABC-CLIO. p. 778. ISBN 978-1-85109-669-5.
  3. "Inkstands". Archived from the original on June 5, 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-17.
  4. "Philp Syng, Jr.". Dr. Physick, America's First Soda. Retrieved 2009-06-17.
  5. Greiff, Constance M. (1987). Independence. University of Pennsylvania Press. p. 141. ISBN 978-0-8122-8047-0.
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