Revolutionary War printing plate ends up in Minnesota

November 7, 2011

For now at least, Minnesota courts are providing a forum for determining who owns some of the oldest media imaginable in these parts:  a Revolutionary War currency-printing plate dating to 1775.

According to a Minnesota Court of Appeals decision released this morning, a Minnesota man bought the plate at a 2009 estate sale in Minnesota and a year later contracted to sell it at a Massachusetts auction.  The morning of the auction, the state of New Hampshire claimed it owned the plate and successfully halted the sale.  After the Minnesota man started a Minnesota lawsuit in Fillmore County, New Hampshire asked the court to dismiss the case on the theory that a Minnesota court did not have “jurisdiction” over the State of New Hampshire.

The trial court denied New Hampshire’s motion to dismiss — a decision the court of appeals said this morning was an error but was subject to further “due process” review.

The law is dry, but the factual circumstances of the printing plate are fascinating.

According to a story New Hampshire television station WMUR aired in May, the printing plate is “about the size of a sheet of paper and was used during the war to print what amounted to war bonds,” and was commissioned by the New Hampshire Legislature in 1775.  A state archivist told the station that it’s unclear how the plate ended up in Minnesota, but that there’s evidence it was loaned to Baltimore doctor in the mid-1850s.

Mid-1850s?  Wow.  Minnesota wasn’t a state till 1858.

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