Hancock, John, 1737-1793

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John Hancock (January 23, 1737 [O.S. January 12, 1736] – October 8, 1793) was an American Founding Father, merchant, statesman, and prominent Patriot of the American Revolution. He served as president of the Second Continental Congress and was the first and third Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. He is remembered for his large and stylish signature on the United States Declaration of Independence, so much so that the term John Hancock or Hancock has become a nickname in the United States for one's signature. He also signed the Articles of Confederation, and used his influence to ensure that Massachusetts ratified the United States Constitution in 1788.

Born in Braintree, Massachusetts, in a part of town that eventually became the separate city of Quincy, he was raised in Boston by his uncle, Thomas Hancock, following the death of his father. After graduating from the Boston Latin School in 1750, Hancock enrolled in Harvard College and received a bachelor's degree in 1754. Upon graduation, he began to work for his uncle, just as the French and Indian War had begun. Thomas Hancock had close relations with the royal governors of Massachusetts and secured profitable government contracts during the war. John Hancock learned much about his uncle's business during these years and was trained for eventual partnership in the firm. From 1760 to 1761, Hancock lived in England while building relationships with customers and suppliers. Upon returning to Boston, Hancock gradually took over the House of Hancock as his uncle's health failed, becoming a full partner in January 1763. After his uncle's death, Hancock inherited the business, his uncle's estate, two or three household slaves, and thousands of acres of land, becoming one of the wealthiest men in the colonies.

In 1765, Hancock was elected a selectman of Boston. His election came at a moment when colonial resistance to the Acts of Parliament was intensifying, and Hancock allied himself with the Boston Whigs. Hancock's popularity guaranteed him election to every political post he sought, and in 1774 he was chosen as a member of the Massachusetts delegation to the First Continental Congress. In 1775 he returned as a member of the Second Continental Congress which elected him President. He presided over the chamber during the discussion concerning the appointment of a commander in chief for the Continental Army. It is likely that he saw himself as a candidate for the post and was deeply disappointed when both John Adams and Samuel Adams rose to nominate George Washington. Hancock remained president during the debate over independence and famously signed the Declaration with his bold signature.

Hancock returned to Boston in 1777, and in 1780 he was elected first governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, serving from 1780 to 1785 and from 1787 until his death. As a politician eager to defend the rights and powers of his state, Hancock was unsure about the Federal Constitution. Although he presided over the state ratifying convention he and Samuel Adams, who held similar views, remained silent during the debates. When it became clear, however, that ratification might fail, the two "Old Revolutionaries" spoke in support of the Constitution and it was approved by a narrow margin (187 to 168). Legend suggests that some suggested to Hancock that while Washington most certainly would become President it was likely a New Englander would be selected as Vice President and that he was a logical choice. Hancock received only four electoral votes in the election, however, none of them from his home state; the Massachusetts electors all voted for John Adams, who received the second-highest number of electoral votes and thus became vice president. Although Hancock was disappointed with his performance in the election, he continued to be popular in Massachusetts.

His health failing, Hancock spent his final few years as essentially a figurehead governor. With his wife at his side, he died in bed on October 8, 1793, at age 56.

Archival Resources
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referencedIn John F. Kennedy Personal Papers. 1917 - 1963. John F. Kennedy Personal Papers: Historical Documents Collection. 1642 - 1918. John F. Kennedy Personal Papers: Historical Documents Collection: John Hancock. 3/10/1759 - 3/10/1759. John Hancock Draft March 10, 1759 John F. Kennedy Library
creatorOf Hancock, John, 1737-1793. Letter 1783 Oct. 18. Portsmouth Athenaeum Library & Museum
referencedIn Records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. 1793 - 1999. Record Of Applications Under The Act Of 1896. 1896 - 1897. 1896 Citizenship Application for John Hancock National Archives at Fort Worth
referencedIn Lovett, Phineas. Letter, 1783 November 10, Annapolis, [Md?], to John Hancock, Boston, [Mass.]. New England Historic Genealogical Society
creatorOf Hancock, John, 1737-1793. Autograph signature to a proclamation, 1787 Sept. 29. Pierpont Morgan Library.
referencedIn May, Joseph, 1760-1841. Letter, 1839 June 10, Boston, to Samuel J. May, North Scituate. Boston Athenaeum
referencedIn Mower, Harrison Curtis. Mower family commissions, 1792-1933. Wisconsin Historical Society, Newspaper Project
referencedIn Waine, William. Papers, 1728-1799. American Antiquarian Society
referencedIn Woodbury, Levi, 1789-1851. Levi Woodbury family papers, 1638-1914 (bulk 1804-1897). Library of Congress
creatorOf Trumbull, Jonathan, 1740-1809. Papers, 1753-1832. Connecticut Historical Society
referencedIn Hoover, Herbert, 1874-1964. U.S. Presidents' papers, 1777-1945. Rutgers University
creatorOf Hancock, John, 1737-1793. Autograph signature to a deed, 1788 May 20. Pierpont Morgan Library.
referencedIn Letter from President George Washington to Governor John Hancock National Archives at College Park
referencedIn Columbia University. Teachers College. Education manuscripts, [ca. 1682-1983]. Campbell University, Wiggins Memorial Library
referencedIn Edwards, Sherman. 1776 : award winning musical / music and lyrics by Sherman Edwards; book by Peter Stone ; [based on a concept by Sherman Edwards], 1997. New York Public Library System, NYPL
referencedIn Stamp Act collection, 1765-1768. Library of Congress
referencedIn Richard John Levy and Sally Waldman Sweet collection, 1766-1935 New York Public Library. Manuscripts and Archives Division
referencedIn Carson, Marian S.,. Marian S. Carson collection of manuscripts (continuation record), 1656-1995 (bulk 1700-1876) Library of Congress
creatorOf Stillman, George, 1751-1799. George Stillman papers, 1775-1803. New York Public Library System, NYPL
creatorOf Hancock, John, 1737-1793. DS, 1781 September 20. : Boston. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Appointment. Copley Press, J S Copley Library
creatorOf Records of the Continental and Confederation Congresses and the Constitutional Convention. 1765 - 1821. Papers of the Continental Congress. 1774 - 1789. Letters from General George Washington, Commander in Chief of the Army. 1775 - 1784. Letter from George Washington to John Hancock National Archives at Washington, D.C
creatorOf Purviance, Samuel Dinsmore, 1774-1806. Correspondence [manuscript] 1775-1787. University of Virginia. Library
creatorOf McClintock, Nathaniel, 1757-1780. Commission, 1777 Apr. 02. Portsmouth Athenaeum Library & Museum
creatorOf Parsons, Samuel Holden, 1735-1789. Samuel Holden Parsons papers, 1760-1830 [microform]. Western Reserve Historical Society, Research Library
creatorOf United States. Continental Congress. Resolution, 1776 June 26. Dartmouth College Library
creatorOf Holten, Samuel, 1738-1816. Samuel Holten Papers, 1769-1816. Peabody Essex Museum
referencedIn Hazard, Ebenezer, 1744-1817. Papers, 1767-1813. American Philosophical Society Library
creatorOf Hancock, John, 1737-1793. DS, 1781 February 17. : Boston. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Appointment. Copley Press, J S Copley Library
referencedIn Crossley, Archibald, Mrs. Mrs. Archibald Crossley autograph collection, 1767-1861. Library of Congress
creatorOf Gwinnett, Button, ca 1732-1777. ALSs, 1776 July 12 : Philadelphia, to John Ashmead. Copley Press, J S Copley Library
creatorOf John F. Kennedy Personal Papers. 1917 - 1963. John F. Kennedy Personal Papers: Historical Documents Collection. 1642 - 1918. John F. Kennedy Personal Papers: Historical Documents Collection: John Hancock. 3/10/1759 - 3/10/1759. John Hancock Draft March 10, 1759 John F. Kennedy Library
referencedIn Levi Woodbury Family Papers, 1638-1914, (bulk 1804-1897) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
creatorOf Smith-Carter family papers, 1669-1880 Massachusetts Historical Society
referencedIn Morris family. Morris family papers, 1732-1834. Connecticut Historical Society
creatorOf Swann, William, 1746-1835. William Swann miscellaneous papers, 1775-1795. Maine Historical Society Library
referencedIn William B. Provine collection of evolutionary biology reprints, 20th century. Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library.
creatorOf Gray, Ebenezer, 1743-1795. Ebenezer Gray collection, 1777-1844 (1777-1786). New-York Historical Society Library
creatorOf Norcross, Grenville H., 1854-1937. Grenville H. Norcross autograph collection, 1489-1937. Massachusetts Historical Society
referencedIn Alexander, William, 1848-. Trade catalogs of insurance, [1837?]-1946. University of California, Santa Barbara, UCSB Library
referencedIn Alexander Woollcott correspondence, ca. 1856-1943 (inclusive), 1920-1943 (bulk). Houghton Library
creatorOf Keith, Israel, 1750-1819. Papers, 1767-1803. New York State Library
creatorOf Cushing, William, 1732-1810. Letter : Boston, to John Hancock, Governor of Massachusetts, 1783 Dec. 20. Pierpont Morgan Library.
creatorOf Shaw, Nathaniel, 1735-1782. Nathaniel Shaw papers, 1776-1781. New London County Historical Society
creatorOf Hancock, John, 1737-1793. Letter, 1783 September 30, to Mrs. Hancock, Point Shirley. New England Historic Genealogical Society
referencedIn Washington Irving's Life of George Washington, Volume III, Miscellany, 1756-1807. Cornell University Library
referencedIn May, Joseph. Letter, 1799 Aug. 14, Boston, to Ebenezer Hancock. Boston Athenaeum
referencedIn Houghton Library printed book provenance file, E-K. Houghton Library
referencedIn John F. Kennedy Personal Papers. 1917 - 1963. John F. Kennedy Personal Papers: Historical Documents Collection. 1642 - 1918. John F. Kennedy Personal Papers: Historical Documents Collection: Sam Phillips. 1642 - 1918. Sam Phillips Letter to John Hancock February 16, 1789 John F. Kennedy Library
creatorOf John Hancock papers, 1753-1783 New York Public Library. Manuscripts and Archives Division
creatorOf Hancock, John, 1737-1793. Mount Vernon, Me., act of incorporation, 1792 June 28. Maine Historical Society Library
creatorOf McDougall, Alexander, 1732-1786,. Correspondence, 1777-1781. Rosenbach Museum & Library
creatorOf Hancock family. Papers III, 1747-1865. Massachusetts Historical Society
referencedIn Ebenezer Stevens Papers, 1776-1822 New-York Historical Society
creatorOf Ward family. Ward family papers, 1721-1953. Massachusetts Historical Society
referencedIn Alexander, William, 1726-1783. Selected papers, 1767-1782. 1776-1782 (bulk). New-York Historical Society Library
creatorOf Cooke, Nicholas, 1717-1782. Papers, 1775-1782. Houghton Library
referencedIn Williamson S. Stuckey Jr. collection, 1779-1887. University of Georgia Main Library
creatorOf Hancock, John, 1737-1793. John Hancock papers, 1775 June 21 Detroit Public Library, Detroit Main Library
referencedIn Records of the Office of the Secretary of Defense. 1921 - 2008. Audio Recordings. 1945 - 1965. Inheritance. No. 35, Paul Revere's ride ; Invitation to learning. No. 136 National Archives at College Park
creatorOf Davis, Jefferson, 1808-1889. Papers concerning the Woodbury and Clapp families [manuscript], 1776-1973. University of Virginia. Library
creatorOf Washington, George, 1732-1799. LS : Pennypackers Mill, Pa., to John Hancock, Lancaster, Pa., 1777 Sept. 29. Rosenbach Museum & Library
creatorOf Bernard, Simon, 1779-1839. Bowyer-Hubard Papers, 1767-1782 and 1816. Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Library
referencedIn Harvard University. Treasurer. Records of the Treasurer, John Hancock, 1754-1926 (inclusive). Harvard University Archives.
creatorOf Stewart, Charles, 1729-1800. Papers, 1768-1877. Houghton Library
creatorOf Hancock, John, 1737-1793. DS, 1776 November 19, and 1776 November 21, In Congress, [Philadelphia]. Copley Press, J S Copley Library
creatorOf Hancock, John, 1737-1793. Letter signed : to Richard Caswell, 1778 Feb. 16. Pierpont Morgan Library.
referencedIn Benjamin Franklin Papers Part 14 -- Materials held at the University of Pennsylvania, 1705-1788 American Philosophical Society
creatorOf Hancock, John, 1737-1793. Papers, 1774-1838. Duke University Libraries, Duke University Library; Perkins Library
creatorOf United States. Continental Congress. Instructions to William Lee, Esquire, 1777 July 1, Philadelphia, Pa. Rosenbach Museum & Library
referencedIn Hawley, Gideon, 1757-1807. Papers, 1753-1806. Morris Brown College
referencedIn Clark, Jonas, 1730-1805. Jonas Clarke collection, 1749-1840. Lexington Historical Society
referencedIn Tucker, Samuel, 1747-1833. Papers, 1774-1847 Houghton Library
referencedIn Selectmen's report on the visitation of the schools, 1771 May 7, Boston. Boston Athenaeum
creatorOf Trumbull, Joseph, 1737-1778. Papers, 1753-1791. Connecticut Historical Society
contributorOf August THRU October 1790 National Archives at College Park
creatorOf Hancock, John, 1736-1793. DS, 1776 December 30, In Congress, [Philadelphia]. Copley Press, J S Copley Library
referencedIn Wharton, Carpenter, 1747-1780. Carpenter Wharton correspondence, 1776-1777. Cornell University Library
referencedIn Drowne family papers, 1728-1936, (bulk 1750-1885) Brown University Library, Special Collections
referencedIn Letters and documents of signers of the Declaration of Independence, 1750-1933. Houghton Library
creatorOf John Hancock letter, 1859 L. Tom Perry Special Collections19th Century Western & Mormon Manuscripts
referencedIn Jones, William. Letters, 1771 July 10 and 1771 August 1, Bristol [England], to John Hancock [Boston, Mass.]. New England Historic Genealogical Society
creatorOf Gennish, M. Draft, 1765, Sept. 14, Halifax [to] Chauncy Townsend, London. Western Illinois University, Malpass Library
creatorOf Massachusetts. Treasury Office. Ledger of estates of absentees, 1780-1795 (bulk 1781-1791) Commonwealth of Massachusetts State Archives
referencedIn Holten, Samuel, 1738-1816. Papers of Samuel Holten, 1630-1843 (bulk 1744-1843). Library of Congress
creatorOf Massachusetts. Council. Correspondence relating to Indian and military affairs at Machias, 1776-1783. Commonwealth of Massachusetts State Archives
creatorOf Hancock, John, 1737-1793. Account of damage done to the Estate of the Honble. John Hancock, Esqr, in the Town of Boston, by the British army since April 19, 1775, taken to December, 1776. Dated Boston, Feb. 26, 1777. Manuscript, signed. Boston Public Library, Central Library in Copley Square
creatorOf Hancock, John, 1737-1793. Autograph letter signed : YorkTown, to Thomas Jefferson, 1777 Oct. 25. Pierpont Morgan Library.
referencedIn United States. Continental Army. Orderly book kept by Major Gibbs, 1778. South Carolina Historical Society
creatorOf Morgan, George, 1743-1810. Letter : Baltimore, [Md.], to John Hancock, [Philadelphia, Pa.], 1777 Jan. 4. Newberry Library
referencedIn Miscellaneous European papers, circa 1600-1903 and undated. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
creatorOf Washburne, E. B. (Elihu Benjamin), 1816-1887,. E. B. Washburne autograph collection, 1766-1888. Houghton Library
creatorOf Hancock, John, 1737-1793. AL (draft) : Boston, to General Whitmore, 1758 Nov. 6-10. Rosenbach Museum & Library
referencedIn Litton Colonial Collection, 1753-1884, (bulk 1750s-1770s) University of California, Santa Barbara. Davidson Library. Department of Special Collections.
referencedIn Roberdeau, Daniel, 1727-1795. Papers, 1767-1791. Library of Congress
referencedIn Harvard University. Board of Overseers. Meeting minutes maintained by the Secretary, 1775-1816. Harvard University Archives.
creatorOf Hancock, John, 1737-1793. Letter to John Watts, 1773 May 14. University of Pennsylvania Libraries, Van Pelt Library
creatorOf Hancock, John, 1737-1793. Letter "To the Honorable Convention New York", 1776 June 11. University of Virginia. Library
referencedIn Huntington, Samuel, 1731-1796. Correspondence, 1783-1794. Gadsden Public Library
creatorOf Massachusetts. Provincial Congress. Letter : to the Governor and Company of Connecticut, 1775 Apr. 10. Rosenbach Museum & Library
creatorOf Deane, Silas, 1737-1789. Papers, 1740-1842. Connecticut Historical Society
referencedIn Vol. CCCCV (ff. 434). 13-28 Feb.-1846.includes:f. 1 R-Adderley, of Chelsea: Letter to Sir R. Peel: 1846.f. 3 Captain Henry George Boyce: Letter to Sir R. Peel.: 1846.f. 5 Henry Braddel, Irish landowner: Letter to Sir R. Peel: 1846.f. 7 John... British Library
referencedIn Checks and promissory notes collection, ca. 1700-ca.1890. Winterthur Library
creatorOf John Hancock Collection, 1754-1792 Harvard University Archives.
referencedIn Salisbury family. Papers, 1674-1916. American Antiquarian Society
referencedIn Massachusetts. Bill for coal, 1771 February 11, to John Hancock. Dartmouth College Library
referencedIn Records relating to estate, real estate, and private investment management, 1765-1945 (inclusive). Harvard Business School, Knowledge and Library Services/Baker Library
creatorOf Fire Society (Boston, Mass.). Papers, 1741-1805. Massachusetts Historical Society
referencedIn Langdon, John, 1741-1819. Papers, 1762-1972. New Hampshire Historical Society Library
referencedIn Portrait file: Guide. Houghton Library
creatorOf United States. Continental Congress. Letter : Philadelphia, to the Provincial Convention of New Jersey, Trenton, 1775 May 27. Rosenbach Museum & Library
creatorOf Price, Ezekiel, 1727-1802. Certificates of appointment to the office of Justice of the Peace, 1780-1802. Boston Athenaeum
creatorOf Hancock, John, 1737-1793. [Letter, 18 July 1785 to Gov. Bowdoin.] Harvard University Archives.
contributorOf October THRU December 1789 National Archives at College Park
referencedIn Washington Irving's Life of George Washington, Volume III, Miscellany, 1756-1807. Cornell University Library
referencedIn Barnes, John S. (John Sanford), 1836-1911. Miscellaneous Manuscripts Collection, 1756-1931. New-York Historical Society Library
referencedIn Massachusetts. Office of the Secretary of State. Proposed amendments to the U.S. Constitution, 1789. Commonwealth of Massachusetts State Archives
creatorOf Hancock, John, 1737-1793. Note : Boston, to Joseph Jackson, 1764 Dec. 27. University of Chicago Library
creatorOf United States. Continental Congress. Resolution, 1776 June 19, regarding the examination and imprisonment of William Franklin. Rosenbach Museum & Library
referencedIn United States Continental Congress Records, 1765-1825, (bulk 1774-1790) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
creatorOf Livingston, William, 1723-1790. William Livingston family papers, 1695-1788. Massachusetts Historical Society
creatorOf Washington, George, 1732-1799. Letter, New York, to John Hancock [manuscript] 1789 May 9. University of Virginia. Library
creatorOf Hinds, Nehemiah. Appointment of Nehemiah Hinds as captain in Militia by John Hancock, 1788 Apr. 15. Historic Northampton Museum & Education Center
creatorOf Hancock, John, 1737-1793. John Hancock letter, 1776 January 13. Western Reserve Historical Society, Research Library
referencedIn Papers, 1775-1935. Houghton Library
referencedIn Frederick M. Dearborn collection of military and political Americana, Part I: The Revolution and the Administration, 1669-1958. Houghton Library
creatorOf Hancock, John, 1737-1793. ALS, [1776 January], [Boston], to Mrs. Hancock. Copley Press, J S Copley Library
referencedIn Ebenezer Hazard papers, 1766-1813, 1766-1813 American Philosophical Society
referencedIn Commission collection, 1720-1829. New York State Historical Documents (Albany, N.Y.)
referencedIn Philipse Manor Hall State Historic Site (N.Y.). Document collection, 1721-1982. Campbell University, Wiggins Memorial Library
creatorOf Hancock, John, 1737-1793. AM, 1775 August 11 : Cambridge, [MA]. Copley Press, J S Copley Library
creatorOf Paine, George Lyman, 1874-. George Lyman Paine autograph collection, 1660-1890. Library of Congress
referencedIn University of Connecticut, President's Office Records [Homer D. Babbidge, 1962-1972], undated, 1962-1972. Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Center.
creatorOf United States. Continental Congress. Appointment of John Matson as first lieutenant, 1776. Texas Christian University
referencedIn VOL. I.: John [Murray], Earl of Dunmore, Governor of Virginia; signature; 2 June, 1774, f. 92. Patrick Henry; Williamsburg, 14 Jan. 1778, f. 93. T. Pickering, jun.; War Office [United States]. 25 May, 1778, f. 95. O. Pollock, secretary to Governor Ga..., 1775-1784 British Library
referencedIn Autograph File, C, 1554-2002. Houghton Library
creatorOf United States. Continental Congress. In Congress, the delegates of the United Colonies of New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode-Island ... to George Washington, Esquire : we, reposing special trust and confidence in your patriotism, conduct and fidelity, do by these presents constitute and appoint you to be general and commander in chief of the army of the United Colonies / by order of the Congress, John Hancock, President. Connecticut State Library, CSL
referencedIn Timothy, Peter, 1725?-1782. Peter Timothy papers, 1777-1779. Library of Congress
referencedIn Logan, Deborah Norris, 1761-1839. Diaries, 1815-1839. Historical Society of Pennsylvania
referencedIn Autographs, evidently part of a larger collection. The autographs are mounted on sheets of cardboard, with the descriptions in German at the foot, and were formerly numbered. The following are the names (the numbers following each were those on the c... British Library
creatorOf Hale, Jane Carruthers,. Autograph collection. Colorado College, Tutt Library
referencedIn Logan, Maria Dickinson, 1857-1939,. Family papers, 1671-1890. Historical Society of Pennsylvania
referencedIn Hancock family. Hancock family papers, 1690-1886 and undated. Lexington Historical Society
referencedIn New York (State). Provincial Congress. Correspondence of the Provincial Congress, Provincial Convention, Committee of Safety, and Council of Safety, 1772-1777 (bulk 1775-1777) New York State Archives
referencedIn Hutson, Richard, 1748-1795. Richard Hutson letter to John Hancock, 1778 Nov. 3. South Carolina Historical Society
creatorOf Karzhavin, F. V. (Fedor Vasilʹevich), 1745-1812. Letters, 1773-1788. Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Library
referencedIn Beede, Carl Greenleaf. Papers, 1927-1949. Winterthur Library
referencedIn Fritz, Jean. Will you sign here, John Hancock? : production material, ca. 1974-1976. University of Minnesota, Minneapolis
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