Original 1765 Stamp Act displayed in USA

08 November 2011

The original 1765 Stamp Act, which is held by the Parliamentary Archives is to go on display in the USA for the first time as part of the New-York Historical Society’s 'Revolution! The Atlantic World Reborn' exhibition

The exhibition has been mounted to celebrate the refurbishment of New York’s first museum and will also feature loans of documents and artefacts from France and Haiti.

What did the 1765 Stamp Act do?

The Act was passed by Parliament in 1765 and ruled that a tax be levied on legal documents, appointments to public offices and other documents produced in the American colonies. The Act even extended to items such as playing cards and dice and was a way for the UK to raise the funds needed to pay for soldiers stationed in North America.

It was such a contentious piece of legislation and caused such uproar, with street protests and outbreaks of violence and disorder in the colonies - that it was repealed after less than a year. However, the Stamp Act was the first of a series of events that eventually led up to American independence.

Caroline Shenton, Head of the Parliamentary Archives, said:

“We are delighted to loan the original Stamp Act to the New-York Historical Society’s exhibition.  The document undoubtedly played a key part in American history, and it’s very fitting that it is America which is displaying the Act for the first time outside of the UK.” 

Louise Mirrer, President and CEO of the Historical Society, said:

“We are deeply grateful to the Parliamentary Archives for granting us the exceptional loan of the Stamp Act of 1765, an indispensable contribution to the story of our inaugural exhibition, Revolution! The Atlantic World Reborn.

“Every school child in the United States learns about the Stamp Act and the Boston Tea Party. Now, for the first time, museum visitors in the United States will be able view the document with their own eyes, within the walls of our newly-renovated landmark building.

“As both iconic document and emblem of the tumultuous 18th century world, the Act will impart incomparable immediacy to a story whose contours continue today."

Recent loans of documents and artefacts made by the Parliamentary Archives include:

  • four items, including the Death Warrant of Charles I, to the British Library for their ‘Taking Liberties’ exhibition in 2009
  • the original Act of the Union with Wales of 1536 to the National Museum of Wales at St Fagans in Cardiff in 2011
  • the first Act of Parliament held by the Parliamentary Archives to the Norfolk Record Office in 2010
  • the original Great Reform Act of 1832 to Newcastle City Library in 2010

Further information

The Parliamentary Archives provides access to the archives of the House of Lords, the House of Commons and to other records relating to Parliament.

The Archives is usually open to the public all year round, Monday to Friday, 9.30 am to 5.00 pm (apart from public holidays).

'Revolution! The Atlantic World Reborn' is being staged to celebrate the re-opening of the New-York Historical Society museum. 

Image: © Parliamentary Archives, London (Document: HL/PO/PU/1/1765/5G3n11)

More news on: Parliament, government and politics, Parliament, Lords news, Parliamentary archives, Exhibitions

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