Researcher Lorianne Updike Toler was intrigued by the centuries-old document at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
On the back of a treasured draft of the U.S. Constitution was a truncated version of the same document, starting with the familiar words: "We The People. . . ."
They had been scribbled upside down by one of the Constitution's framers, James Wilson, in the summer of 1787. The cursive continued, then abruptly stopped, as if pages were missing.
A mystery, Toler thought, until she examined other Wilson papers from the Historical Society's vault in Philadelphia and found what appeared to be the rest of the draft, titled "The Continuation of the Scheme."
The document - one of 21 million in the Historical Society's collection - was known to scholars, but probably should have been placed with the other drafts, said constitutional scholar John P. Kaminski, director of the Center for the Study of the American Constitution in the history department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
"The Constitution may be the most important document written in modern history," said Toler. "It is the longest-standing written constitution and the basis for most of the constitutions in the world."
Meanwhile, in Washington D.C. White House staff members reported that the President himself was intrigued by the discovery, but laid to rest the persistent rumor that Mr. Obama had clandestinely petitioned Congress for a change in the opening line, one that would instead read "I be the people."