Thought Lost, U.S. Centennial Broadside Document Found In N.H. State Archives

May 6, 2015

Former State Rep. Stilson Hutchins, founder of the Washington Post, gifted the document to the state.
Credit New Hampshire House of Representatives

  Deep in the state archives, a document of historical significance was recently discovered many thought had been lost forever.

The large, framed document, or broadside, is a commemoration of the centennial of the United States.

It’s dated July 4, 1876, and is signed by president Ulysses S. Grant, the Supreme Court justices, and all members of the U.S. House and Senate at the time.

The document is set to be unveiled at a ceremony in Representatives Hall at the Statehouse Wednesday morning.

Brian Burford is the state archivist.

He joined Morning Edition to talk about the discovery.

This seems like a pretty major historical finding. How was it discovered?

The state archives is actually in the process of renovating our shelves. In the process of removing about 30,000 cubic feet of state records, one of the workers found there was a large, wooden case that was sort of tucked in behind the shelves and behind the boxes we hadn’t noticed before.

It has just been there for several years and people just hadn’t paid attention to it?

I believe that’s the case. I have worked in that building for almost 20 years, and I’ve never noticed it before this.

This is something called a broadside. It’s a very large document. How big is this?

State officials carry the document to the Statehouse earlier this week.
Credit New Hampshire House of Representatives

I would guess it’s probably four feet by five feet. It’s very large and it’s got a nice frame on it.

What can you tell us about the document’s history?

The document seems to have been intended to commemorate the signing of the Declaration of Independence. It seems to have been the idea of Gen. James D. McBride of Ohio. The interesting thing is that he appears to have sold a few copies of this. He’s also produced other documents of which he’s sold souvenir copies as well at later times in his life.

And how did it end up in the state’s hands?

In August of 1885, just a few weeks after President Grant died, a member of the New Hampshire House of Representatives presented this artifact to the House of Representatives. His name was Stilson Hutchins. He was a newspaper man of a fair amount of fame.

He was the founder of the Washington Post, correct?

Yes. He was also a partial owner of the Manchester Union, a predecessor to the New Hampshire Union Leader. So he was heavily involved with newspapers and reporting and he had made a fair amount of money in the business. Some of his money was invested in purchasing these rare documents. Perhaps it was the death of President Grant that caused him in a moment of great patriotism to say that he wanted to donate it to the New Hampshire legislature.

It had been on display on a wall outside Representatives Hall, but was relocated and it sounds like people simply lost track of it somewhere along the way.

An image of the broadside.
Credit New Hampshire House of Representatives

How does that happen?

You have to understand that there are a lot of different documents, paintings, artifacts in the archive.

How many pieces are in New Hampshire’s archive?

We have 12 million documents, we estimate. And artifacts are unnumbered. Much of it is stored there by other state agencies that own some of these other artifacts that they’ve had from their history.

There must be so many interesting finds you’ve had over the years.

There are a great many interesting things contained in the archives that have either been discovered there or been brought in and purchased or deposited in the state.