Rare Document An Exciting Find

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The Daughters of the American Revolution members of Payson are excited over something that happened in Maine in June. It has created a debate over private ownership of a rare copy of the Declaration of Independence.


One of the copies made from the original Declaration of Independence was found by Mr. Kaja Veilleux, an esteemed antique dealer and appraiser, who states that he found it while he was reviewing an estate for auction material. It was in a pile of papers that were going to the landfill.

This was one of the 16 copies of the Declaration that were printed on July 4, 1776, by E. Russell. It was issued to the Rev. Mr. Gilman of North Yarmouth, Maine, by the Massachusetts Legislature with the instruction that it was to be read to the church service and then delivered to the town clerk.


Mr. Philip Isaacson, attorney for Mr. Veilleux, questions if the document ever reached the town clerk.


When Maine became a state, it assumed rights and obligations of Massachusetts, according to Dennis Doiran, an assistant attorney general for the state. However, Mr. Veilleux claims ownership until the state can prove otherwise. The State of Maine Archives must retrace the document's movements back to 1776 to verify that ownership.


The current laws of the state address public documents and make the State of Maine Archives the clearinghouse for all public documents. The attorney general, James Henderson, hopes that historical societies and museums will look closely at preserving their public documents and preventing them from leaving the state.


"The happy thing about the whole deal is that the piece itself was saved and I found it," Mr. Veilleux said. "And if I made a lot of money for the customer or if it's saved for whoever gets it, at least the Declaration didn't end up in the landfill." (The Bar Harbor (Me) Times July 1, 1999).


Virginia M. Fowler

Daughters of the American Revolution

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