Sept. 17, 1787: U.S. Constitution signed

Kelly O'Mara

Today we celebrate Constitution Day, so named for the 39 members of the Constitutional Convention who signed the U.S. Constitution on Sept. 17, 1787. The location for the great event: Independence Hall in Philadelphia, also the spot where the Declaration of Independence was signed.

Now part of Independence National Historical Park and a World Heritage Site, the building is a place of pilgrimage for Americans wanting to stand in the rooms where the Founding Fathers debated the form their new country would take.

The convention had convened months earlier, in May, but representatives from nearly every state had spent the months arguing over what exactly the document should say. The major disagreement was over how much power should be handed to the federal government or allocated to the states.

After being signed by the convention’s secretary and 39 of the 55 delegates, the Constitution didn’t become law until it was ratified by nine of the 13 states. That didn’t happen until June 1788, and only under the understanding that amendments would be added. Governing began on March 4, 1789, and those amendments (known as the Bill of Rights) were adopted in September.

The U.S. becoming its own country was a big deal for international travelers. Now, they could visit the United States of America – not just another British colony.