North Carolina’s copy of the Bill of Rights is making a rare public appearance at the N.C. Museum of History now through the weekend.
The document is one of at least 14 original copies of the Bill of Rights – one for the federal government and for each of the 13 original states. Historians think North Carolina’s copy was stolen from the State Capitol in April 1865 by a Union soldier serving under Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman.
It was recovered in 2003 when FBI agents seized it from an antiques dealer who thought he was talking to a philanthropist interested in buying the document for a Philadelphia museum. It took a court fight for North Carolina to finally win custody of the document, which consists of the first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution outlining rights of citizens and limits to government power.
Because of its fragile condition, the North Carolina copy of the Bill of Rights is rarely on display. It will be on view through Sunday as part of an exhibit called “Treasures of Carolina: Stories from the State Archives,” which runs through the end of July. Admission is free.