You wouldn’t recognize most of the 56 names that signed The Declaration of Independence, but there are a few that readily stand out when you see them. Here are some fun, quick facts about some of these most prominent early American leaders:
This is the first and most recognizable signature. Hancock was orphaned as a child and adopted by his grandfather, then by his childless aunt and uncle. When they died, he inherited their wealth, the largest sum of individual wealth in all of New England. He witnessed the coronation of King George III (who would later become enemy #1 against America). It is thanks to Paul Revere’s famous midnight ride on April 18, 1775 that Hancock escaped being captured and imprisoned by the British. He and Samuel Adams started The Sons of Liberty, the group who catalyzed America into declaring independence from Great Britain. He was 39 years old when he signed The Declaration of Independence. Hancock went on to become the elected governor of Massachusetts for 9 terms until the day of his death.
Jefferson was 33 at the time of signing, and was a lawyer prior to being elected to the Continental Congress. He had a life in politics from that point on, serving first a John Adams’ Vice President for four years, then becoming America’s third president for eight years. He established the Democratic-Republican party in 1793, as well as The University of Virginia in 1810.
Often confused as brothers, the two were actually cousins, though their proximity to one another in politics earned them the name “Adams Brothers” and “The Adams." John was 41 when he signed The Declaration of Independence, Samuel was 54. John went to Harvard on scholarship prior to his political career, and went on to become the first United States Vice President, serving under George Washington, and then was elected the second US President in 1796. Samuel Adams also went to Harvard, working as a tax collector and politician and eventually becoming elected governor of Massachusetts. Despite what you may think with modern commercials, Sam Adams was a brewer, but he was actually terrible at it!
Franklin had a personality that brought respect and admiration, even from people in Europe, as tensions arose between the new United States and Great Britain. Franklin was a printer and publisher from an early age, starting Poor Richard’s Almanac in 1741. He was the elected agent for Pennsylvania and other states to go to England, France and other powers on the states’ behalf. Franklin was 70 at the time of signing The Declaration of Independence, and actually helped edit the document, but his age didn’t slow him down afterwards. He went on to become the first US Postmaster General, and was one of the first and strongest advocates to end slavery in America.
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