Researching the American Revolution

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John Hancock


John Hancock was an American statesman and founder who lived from 1737 to 1793. He is best known for his signature on the Declaration of Independence, which was the first to appear on the document and became synonymous with signing one’s name. Here is an overview of his life and contributions:

Early Life and Career:

  • John Hancock was born in Braintree, Massachusetts, on January 23, 1737, to a wealthy family of merchants and ministers.
  • He attended Harvard College and graduated in 1754.
  • After his father’s death in 1764, he inherited a fortune and took over the family business, which included shipping, trading, and real estate.

Political Career:

  • Hancock became involved in politics during the early stages of the American Revolution.
  • He was elected to the Massachusetts Provincial Congress in 1774 and was chosen as its president.
  • In 1775, he was elected to the Continental Congress and was later chosen as its president, a position he held until 1777.
  • He played a key role in the drafting and signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776.
  • Hancock served as the governor of Massachusetts from 1780 to 1785 and was reelected in 1787.


  • Hancock’s signature on the Declaration of Independence is one of the most iconic in American history and has become synonymous with patriotism and independence.
  • He played a crucial role in organizing and financing the American Revolution, using his wealth and resources to support the cause.
  • As governor of Massachusetts, he helped shape the state’s constitution and advocated for greater individual freedoms and protections.


  • John Hancock is remembered as one of the most prominent and influential leaders of the American Revolution.
  • His signature on the Declaration of Independence remains an enduring symbol of American patriotism and defiance against tyranny.
  • His contributions to the cause of American independence helped shape the course of history and inspire future generations of leaders.

Primary Sources

John Hancock Papers: Guide to Massachusetts Historical Society Collection

Hancock Family Papers: Harvard University Collection


Unger, Harlow G. John Hancock: Merchant King and American Patriot. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 2000.

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