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People Top 5
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- July 08, 1991
- Vol. 35
- No. 26
Stairway to History
What's in the Attic? a Nation's Past
Then, on the strength of a note alluding to "other important papers," Tobin headed for a vault at Boston's Bank of New England. "I couldn't believe it at first—it was like winning the lottery twice," says Tobin. Inside were two drafts of the U.S. Constitution, one brought back from the 1787 Constitutional Convention by New Hampshire delegate Nicholas Gilman, the other by Massachusetts delegate Rufus King. (Both papers were placed in the bank around 1900.)
Only a handful of these documents are known to exist. "They are priceless," enthuses museum board member Bonnie Meroth, although one expert thinks the drafts could fetch better than a million apiece.
King's version is a four-page, near-final draft of the Constitution; the other is an earlier, seven-page committee draft annotated by Gil-man. The optimistic Tobin believes that Gilman's yet-to-be-deciphered marginalia could have "a significant impact on history."
But that's for the scholars to decide. Meroth and Tobin still have toys to unpack in the attic. "It's overwhelming," says Meroth. "We've been like kids in a candy store."
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