Jacob Shallus

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Jacob Shallus
Bornc. 1750
Died18 April 1796
Known forEngrossing the United States Constitution

Jacob Shallus or Shalus (1750–April 18, 1796)[1] was the engrosser or penman of the original copy of the United States Constitution. The handwritten document that Shallus engrossed is on display at the National Archives Building in Washington.

Shallus was the son of German immigrants, Valentine Schallus and Frederica Catherina.[2][3] His brother Thomas Shallus was a mapmaker. He was born a year after his father Valentine immigrated to Pennsylvania and was a volunteer in the Revolutionary War. During the war Shallus fought in Canada and became a quartermaster of Pennsylvania's 1st Battalion. Shallus also assisted in the outfitting of a privateering vessel, the Retrieve.[4] At the time of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, Shallus served as Assistant Clerk to the Pennsylvania General Assembly, which met at the Pennsylvania State House (today known as Independence Hall). The convention's desire for speedy drafting and Shallus' convenience to the convention's meeting may have influenced his choice as engrosser.[4]

Shallus' name appears nowhere on the document itself, but an investigation into the identity of the Penman in 1937 for the 150th anniversary of the Constitution revealed the identity of the transcriber. Shallus was paid $30 for his engrossing work, a sum recorded as for "clerks employed to transcribe & engross."[4] The effort consisted of copying the Constitution on four sheets of parchment made from treated animal skin (either calf, goat, or sheep; in 1987 the supervising conservator at the National Archives said, "We don't know which") and measuring 28 3/4 inches by 23 5/8 inches, probably with a goose quill and with ink made of iron filings in oak gall that was black when applied but that has now turned brownish.[5] Shallus engrossed the entire document except for the list of states at the end of the document, which are in Alexander Hamilton's handwriting.[4]

Shallus is also credited as Assistant Secretary in the 1790 re-authoring of the State Constitution of Pennsylvania.

Shallus married Elizabeth Melchor, sister to Col. Isaac Melcher, Barrack-Master-General of the Revolutionary Army. Her obituary from the Democratic Press (Pennsylvania), Aug. 3, 1818, p. 3 notes that she was "one of those patriotic Ladies of Philadelphia who first associated together and supplied the suffering soldiers with shirts, stockings, &c. in that eventful period of the revolution, which tried and apalled [sic] even men's souls."

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  1. ^ Simpson, Henry (1859-01-01). The Lives of Eminent Philadelphians, Now Deceased. W. Brotherhead.
  2. ^ Constitution 225: To errata is human, The National Archives, Prologue: Pieces of History, Sept. 14, 2012.
  3. ^ "Jacob Shallus". Ancestry.com.
  4. ^ a b c d Vile, John R. (2005-01-01). The Constitutional Convention of 1787: A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of America's Founding. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 9781851096695.
  5. ^ Irvin Molotsky, "The Constitution: It's 200 Years Old, and It Certainly Has Been Around," New York Times (September 17, 1987), p. 15, quoting Norvell Jones, supervising conservator at the National Archives, and Kenneth E. Harris, a director of preservation at the National Archives.

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