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N.Y. college houses endangered Thomas Paine writings

NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. — A once-endangered collection of a Revolutionary leader’s writings and effects has found a safe, new home.

Iona College in New York City’s suburbs is about to open the Institute for Thomas Paine Studies.

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Its cornerstone is a collection that includes first editions of ‘‘Common Sense,’’ the pamphlet that helped inspire the American Revolution. It also includes Paine’s eyeglasses, locks of his hair, and anti-Paine cartoons and other evidence of how his popularity plummeted after independence.

The collection was amassed since 1884 by the Thomas Paine National Historical Association, which fell on hard times and could no longer care for the materials in its deteriorating building. The Iona archive that will house the collection is barely a mile from what once was Paine’s farm.

Paine was born in 1737 in Thetford, England, and emigrated to America at the urging of Benjamin Franklin, whom he met in London. He arrived in Philadelphia in 1774.

After the start of the Revolutionary War, Paine began formulating his views about the right of the Colonists to seek independence from Great Britain because of the imposition of taxes without representation. His ideas culminated in the publication of “Common Sense’’ in 1776.

About a half-million copies of the pamphlet were published. Paine died in New York in 1809.

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