Home‎ > ‎Programs of Service‎ > ‎


The Freedom Shrine

"The heritage of the past is the seed which
brings forth the harvest of the future."

This is the underlying principle and purpose of the Freedom Shrine … to put before young Americans proof that the freedoms and greatness we enjoy today were not purchased easily … and to remind them that these gifts must be cherished and protected.

The Freedom Shrine, sponsored by the Madison Exchange Club, is a collection of significant original documents from American history that are exact photographic reproductions.  The display includes the Bill of Rights, the Mayflower Compact, the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. This permanent display allows the public to see the hand of humanity behind these famous documents in a way that is not possible with transcriptions or electronic copies.

More than 12,000 Freedom Shrines have been dedicated in schools, military installations and government buildings since the program began in 1949.  The Madison Exchange Club has installed nine Freedom Shrines which can be seen at ► Town CampusMemorial Town HallAcademy Elementary SchoolDr. Robert Brown Lower Middle SchoolWalter Polson Upper Middle SchoolDaniel Hand High SchoolOur Lady of Mercy SchoolElisabeth Adams Middle School in Guilford ► St. Rita School in Hamden.

On April 26th 2010, the Madison Board of Selectmen officially proclaimed May as Freedom Shrine Month. In addition, the Freedom Shrine at Town Campus was rededicated as a permanent home for our Past Presidents plaque.  Accepting the honor on behalf of the club is Bill Lawlor who along with Tony DaRos, put in long hours to reconfigure the Freedom Shrine.

Town Campus Rededication, May 2010
L-R standing: Ashton Edwards, Tony DaRos, Bill Lawlor, First Selectman Fillmore McPherson
L-R kneeling: Past President Mary Minshall, President Thomas Tung

Memorial Town Hall, Madison

Academy Elementary School, Madison

Dr. Robert Brown Lower Middle School, Madison

Walter Polson Upper Middle School, Madison

Daniel Hand High School, Madison

Our Lady of Mercy School, Madison

Elisabeth Adams Middle School, Guilford

St. Rita School, Hamden

Facts About the Freedom Shrine

  • The Freedom Shrine was inspired by the Freedom Train, a traveling exposition of historic American documents which toured the United States shortly after World War II.  In 1949, the Exchange Clubs of America, by unanimous resolution, agreed to install permanent displays of the best of these historical documents in communities throughout the nation so that Americans of all ages would have access to their rich heritage.
  • Of the Freedom Shrine documents, only the first… The Mayflower Compact… was written before the concept of such a thing as the United States of America was even conceived.  But because it illustrates that the seed of eventual American freedom was carried to these shores by its very earliest settlers, it is considered part of our American heritage.
  • In many communities, the Freedom Shrine has been integrated into American History courses and is utilized as an invaluable reference for students seeking access to authentic historical American documents.
  • To increase the value of the Freedom Shrine to American students, The National Exchange Club  has published the complete texts of each document.  It is believed that the Freedom Shrine Documents Text Book currently represents the most authentic reprinting of these original documents.
  • Although the Freedom Shrine is an exclusive program of the Exchange Club, the presentation of a great many Freedom Shrines has been cosponsored by hundreds of individuals and businesses, including some of our nation's leading corporations.
  • In 1987, three new documents were added to the Freedom Shrine; the final draft of the U.S. Constitution, Franklin D. Roosevelt's "Four Freedoms" Address and Kennedy's Inaugural Address.  Then in 1996, Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" Speech and the Account of the Proceedings of the Susan B. Anthony Trial were also added.

The Freedom Shrine Documents

1620  The Mayflower Compact
1776  The Declaration of Independence - Jefferson's Rough Draft
1776  The Declaration of Independence
1776  Benjamin Franklin's Epitaph
1778  Patrick Henry's Instructions to George Rogers Clark
1782  Washington's Letter to Colonel Nicola
1783  The Treaty of Paris
1787  The Northwest Ordinance
1787  Washington's Copy of the Constitution
1787  U.S. Constitution
1789  Washington's First Inaugural
1789  The Bill of Rights
1796  Washington's Farewell
1801  Jefferson's First Inaugural
1814  The Star Spangled Banner
1815  Jackson's Letter Describing the Battle of New Orleans
1823  The Monroe Doctrine

1863  The Emancipation Proclamation
1863  The Gettysburg Address
1865  Lincoln's Second Inaugural
1865  Lee's Letter Accepting Washington College Presidency
1865  The Thirteenth Amendment
1874  Account of the Proceedings of the Susan B. Anthony Trial
1907  Theodore Roosevelt's Letter on Cuba
1913  Wilson's First Inaugural
1920  The Nineteenth Amendment
1941  F.D.R.'s Four Freedoms Speech
1943  Letter naming Eisenhower Supreme Commander
1944  General McAuliffe's "Christmas Message"
1945  German Instrument of Surrender, WWII
1945  Instrument of Surrender in the Pacific
1961  J.F.K.'s "Ask Not…" Speech
1963  Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" Speech
Want to learn more? Visit the Virtual Freedom Shrine hosted by the Salem NH Exchange Club