Declaration of Independence Signer. His signature on the document was so bold that when people sign their names, they are said to have written their “John Hancock.” Born in Braintree, Massachusetts, where his father was a minister. When he was seven years old, his father died suddenly, and his uncle, Thomas Hancock, one of the wealthiest merchants in Boston, adopted him and raised him. John graduated from Harvard College in 1754 and joined his uncle in his business, inheriting the company upon his uncle’s death in 1764. In 1768, when one of his merchant ships, the Liberty, was seized by customs officials, Hancock felt the seizure was unfair and soon became a vocal critic of the British policies. In 1769, he won election to the Massachusetts Legislature, and in 1774, attended the First Continental Congress, and the following year, the Second Continental Congress. Because of his leadership, he was elected to serve as President of both Continental Congresses. On April 19, 1775, the British Army marched out of Boston to Lexington, in part to capture Hancock and patriot Samuel Adams, and it was Paul Reveres ride that gave them warning to flee. Hancock was hesitant to flee, as he wanted to join the Minutemen then gathering on Lexington Green to fight the approaching British. Eventually, he was persuaded to leave the fighting to others and to avoid capture. Shortly after the battles of Lexington and Concord, Hancock was on his way to Philadelphia, to join the Second Continental Congress. As President of the Continental Congress, from 1775 to 1777, he was the first person to sign the Declaration of Independence. In August 1775, he married Dolly Quincy, with whom he would have two children, however, neither child lived to become adults. He had hoped to command the American Army, and was disappointed when Virginian George Washington was selected instead. In 1778, however, he led 5,000 Massachusetts soldiers in an unsuccessful attempt to free Rhode Island from the British. In 1780, Hancock became President of the Convention which wrote the Massachusetts Constitution, and became the first Governor under the new charter. Extremely popular in his home state, he served nine terms as governor, a total of eleven years, from 1780 to 1785, and from 1787 until his death in Boston in 1793.

Bio by: Kit and Morgan Benson