Maine Town Loses Fight to Recover Rare Copy of Declaration of Independence

Check out this article from Fox News about a Maine town’s efforts to recover a rare copy of the Declaration of Independence

Shortly after the signing of the Declaration in 1776, copies were printed up as broadsides, only 250 in number, then distributed to towns throughout Massachusetts (Maine was then part of that state).  One of them ended up in the hands of the town clerk for Wiscasset, Maine, and was turned up by an auctioneer in the estate of a daughter of the clerk in 1994 — one of only 11 copies of the original broadside known to survive.  It eventually was sold to a Virginia man for $475,000 in 2001.  The state of Maine subsequently claimed ownership, arguing it was Wiscasset’s copy and therefore a public document, but the Virginia Supreme Court ruled against them Friday.  

As an aside, let me add that the Greensboro Historical Museum owns an outstanding facsimile copy of one of these broadsides of the Declaration (virtually indistinguishable from the original), which I was fortunate enough to see while in the employ of the Museum archives some years ago.

This story also reminded me of North Carolina’s recent successful fight to recover our state’s copy of the Bill of Rights, which had been stolen by an Ohio soldier during the Civil War.  If interested, check articles here and here.    

Greensboro Public Library of course has a number of books about the Declaration of Independence, including The Declaration of Independence:  A Global History by David Armitage; America Declares Independence by Alan Dershowitz; American Scripture:  Making the Declaration of Independence by Pauline Maier; and Garry Wills’ Inventing America : Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence.


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