|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 Syng inkstand is thus a work of art and an important artifact from American history, having been used by such prominent Founding Fathers as Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Hancock, John Adams, and James Madison.
Inkstands were made to hold ink for quill pens and other implements that required an external source of ink. They were made to be placed on desks, and ornate versions included a pounce pot (similar to salt and pepper shakers to sprinkle pounce which aids in sizing parchment or velum), a place for the pen, and a candle to melt sealing wax. Inkstands may be decorated in various artistic styles. The Syng inkstand shows, from left to right, a pounce pot, quill holder, and inkpot, and is decorated in late Rococo style.
The Syng inkstand was made by Philip Syng in 1752 for the provincial assembly of Pennsylvania. Syng had immigrated to the United States from Ireland in 1713, and was a renowned silversmith. He created fine works in silver, and sometimes gold, for the rich families of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Syng was also an associate of Benjamin Franklin, and was a prominent member of the Philadelphia community who assisted in the founding of the Library Company of Philadelphia, the American Philosophical Society, the Union Fire Company, and the University of Pennsylvania.
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, and for a time it was displayed in Independence Hall on a desk in front of Washington's chair. It was considered to be 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. It is on display in a special case in Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia, along with copies of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
- Scene at the Signing of the Constitution of the United States, a 1940 painting which features the inkstand.
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