Long before there were bloggers, there were preachers in pulpits charged with delivering momentous news.
Thus it was on July 17, 1776, that the Executive Council of Massachusetts took action to let colonists know that our nascent nation had severed its ties with England.
In order to broadcast the broadside, the council ordered that copies of the Declaration of Independence be printed and distributed to Massachusetts ministers to be read to their congregations, then delivered to town and district clerks to be recorded in local records “to remain as a perpetual Memorial thereof.”
Several years ago, a copy of one of those Massachusetts broadsides, rescued from an attic in 1995, came into the hands of Richard L. Adams Jr., who paid nearly a half-million dollars for the “Pownalborough Print.” Documentation indicated the copy had been intended for the Town of Pownalborough, Massachusetts, which is now Wiscasset, Maine.
In 2004, the State of Maine sued for return of the document. But on Feb. 22, Fairfax Circuit Judge Terry Ney said that Maine failed to prove either that the document had been a public record or that it had been lost or stolen from town records before Adams bought it from reputable dealer.
Ney confirmed Adams’ ownership of the document in a 14-page opinion in Adams v. State of Maine (VLW 008-8-039).