Altoona Celebrates 150 Years With a Priceless Document

ALTOONA, Iowa  —  Altoona is celebrating a big birthday this weekend. It was established as a town 150 years ago! They are bringing in a significant article as a part of the festivities, an original copy of the Declaration of Independence.

The original owner was Matthew Thornton, he was the last person to sign the document. Through the years it was passed down through the Thornton family to Reverend Mary Thornton Davenport, a member of a prominent family that settled in Altoona. She donated the copy to the Iowa State Historical Museum in the 1940s. Like any priceless document, it was carefully packaged and transported from the State Museum’s vault to be showcased in Altoona’s 150th anniversary this weekend at the Altoona Area Historical Museum.

“Our understanding is that this is the first time this copy will have been displayed outside of the facility downtown ever,” Altoona Historical Society President Tim Burget said.

“It’s Iowa ties aren’t super strong, but it is important to Altoona because a prominent Altoona family received it and was proud of it for years and years so that part of the story is key to Altoona,” State Historical Museum of Iowa’s Communications Manager Michael Morain said.

Thursday through Sunday the document will sit in the Altoona Area Historical Museum along many other historical artifacts like instruments from the Altoona Kitchen Band, which was formed during Altoona’s 100-year celebration.

The city of Altoona has grown so much in the last 25 years that many of the current residents aren’t aware of the rich history.

“I think it’s good for the city of Altoona because we don’t have a lot of individual things, we’ve got a lot of new people that just moved into town, the town has grown a lot the last few years, so I think it will introduce a lot of people to maybe the history of Altoona along with having fun this weekend,” Altoona 150 Committee Co-Chair Bruce Mason said.

Click here for a full list of events from Thursday through Sunday including a parade and concerts.