This time, the public wasn't summoned with a 2,000-pound copper-and-tin bell. Emails and social media posts were the method for getting the word out.

But much else about the public reading Sunday of the Declaration of Independence on the spot where its powerful contents were first publicly disclosed 242 years ago was total 18th century.

In the square behind Independence Hall Sunday, park rangers dressed in period costume distributed free copies of the historic document and posed for pictures as part of an annual reenactment of the document's first reading to Philadelphians on July 8, 1776 — four days after the Second Continental Congress voted to approve it at what is now one of the country's most-visited tourist sites.

Steve Medeiros, portraying John Dunlap, the man who printed the Declaration of Independence back in 1776, hands out copies to the crowd.
MICHAEL BRYANT
Steve Medeiros, portraying John Dunlap, the man who printed the Declaration of Independence back in 1776, hands out copies to the crowd.

At noon sharp, ranger Dave Powers, a Philadelphia resident playing the role of Col. John Nixon, stepped out of Independence Hall — the Pennsylvania State House in Nixon's day — and launched into a reading that still captivates and inspires.

Sean Toth, 6, (center) from Milford, Mich., was dressed for the part, as he and other children participate in mock militia training behind Independence Hall as they waited for the public reading of the Declaration of Independence.
MICHAEL BRYANT
Sean Toth, 6, (center) from Milford, Mich., was dressed for the part, as he and other children participate in mock militia training behind Independence Hall as they waited for the public reading of the Declaration of Independence.

"The unanimous Declaration of the 13 United States of America, when in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness …"

The Rasmussen family from Gresham, Ore., gather close to read a copy of the Declaration.
MICHAEL BRYANT
The Rasmussen family from Gresham, Ore., gather close to read a copy of the Declaration.