Acquisition Fight Lost for Historic 1776 Print

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The 19th Judicial Circuit Court of Virginia has ruled the holder of a 1776 Salem Massachusetts Bay broadside copy of the Declaration of Independence found in a Wiscasset home in 1995 can retain quiet title of the historic document.

The Feb. 22 decision ends an extensive search and subsequent legal battle the state of Maine initiated in 2004 on behalf of Wiscasset and its predecessor, Pownalborough, based on its claim that the document is an official town record of Wiscasset and should be in its possession.

Richard L. Adams, Jr. of Fairfax, Va. had filed suit with the court for quiet title to the print on the basis that he is a bona fide purchaser for value. Adams purchased it from a rare book dealer in London, England for $475,000.

The state Attorney General's Office located the copy in 2006 after launching its search in 2004 and served notice on Adams.

If the state had succeeded, the town most likely would have been recognized as the true owner, but the state would have stored the document at the Maine Archives in a high security and environmental vault and possibly taken to the town for special community events for public viewing.

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