John Hancock’s name is seen in large print at the bottom of a 1776 copy of the Declaration of Independence on April 16, 2015 in the Maine State Museum in Augusta. Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan

HALLOWELL — Ahead of the state’s bicentennial celebration, the Hallowell Citizens Initiative Committee planned to show off a priceless piece of the city’s and nation’s history.

But that event, in the wake of coronavirus precautions being taken in Maine, has been canceled.

The event, by the Hallowell Citizens Initiative Committee and spearheaded by Sandy Stubbs, was to be part of the Maine Bicentennial.

The Kennebec Journal reported in 2015 that the Hallowell broadside was sent to Fort Western in 1776. At the time, Hallowell was a sweeping area that included Augusta and Chelsea and parts of Farmingdale and Manchester. An 1870 book on the area’s history said the copy was not returned after it was supposed to be read to a church congregation. The copy was lost until 1908, when E.T. Getchell, a Hallowell native, donated it to a museum housed in the Hubbard Free Library. City Historian Sam Webber found it framed on the wall in the library’s office in 1976.

This hand-written note mentioning Hallowell is seen on the back of a 1776 copy of the Declaration of Independence on April 16, 2015 in the Maine State Museum in Augusta. Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan

The broadside has the words “for Hallowell” scrawled on the back, which Stubbs said made it unique.

According to the World Digital Library, the Dunlap Broadside is one of only 25 known copies produced by John Dunlap, the printer for the Continental Congress, on the night of July 4, 1776, though more than 250 were ordered by the state council of Massachusetts. These copies have extraordinary value; in 2000, Sotheby’s auctioned a broadside for $8.1 million, setting a new record for internet auctions at the time.

Hall-Dale Elementary School Principal Kristie Clark said the school has been using the event to teach students about the document. She said the school is holding a private assembly Friday, where students will sing Maine-themed songs and fifth graders will read portions of the document. Students will also be able to bring their parents and guardians to view the document during the day.

“It is very exciting to be able to share this with students,” Clark said. “When I heard from Ms. Stubbs asking if I was open to sharing that with the students for the (Bicentennial) I said absolutely.”

Stubbs lauded Clark’s enthusiasm for educating students on the history of Hallowell.

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