Hancock, John, 1737-1793

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John Hancock (b. January 23, 1737, Braintree, MA-d. October 8, 1793, Boston, MA) was a prominent Boston merchant and leading statesman during the American Revolutionary War period. A 1754 graduate of Harvard College, he served as its treasurer from 1773 until 1777.

Born in Braintree, Massachusetts, Hancock moved to Boston after the death of his father, the Reverend John Hancock (1702-1744) and lived with his uncle and aunt, Thomas (1703-1764) and Lydia Hancock (1714-1776). Upon graduating from Harvard, Hancock entered into his uncle’s prosperous trading business; in 1763, he became a partner. With the death of his uncle in 1764, Hancock took charge of the business and much of his uncle’s estate. As one of the wealthiest merchants in Massachusetts, John Hancock was conscious of the adverse effects of the British tariffs enacted after the French and Indian War (1755-1763), and was often involved in the escalating clashes between colonists and representatives of the crown. In early 1765 Hancock was elected a selectman of Boston, and later that year Hancock emerged as a vocal opponent of the Stamp Act. In May 1766 he was elected a member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives.

Against the backdrop of growing political conflict, Harvard appointed Hancock Treasurer of the College on July 30, 1773. The Hancock family was among Harvard’s leading benefactors in the 18th century. Family contributions to Harvard included £1000 from Thomas Hancock's will to establish a professorship in Oriental languages and John Hancock's generous donation of books in 1767. But Hancock’s attention to the College waned as his civic responsibilities increased. On October 14, 1774, Hancock was elected president of the Massachusetts Provincial Congress. He left for Philadelphia on April 22, 1775 to act as a delegate to the Second Continental Congress. He served as President of the Continental Congress from 1775, moving from Philadelphia to Baltimore in December 1776 to avoid the approaching British troops. Hancock returned to Philadelphia in early March 1777 until Congress was once again forced to relocate, this time to York, Pennsylvania in September. Finally in October 1777 a leave of absence was approved and Hancock returned to Boston.

Hancock's congressional responsibilities complicated his role as Harvard’s treasurer. By the beginning of 1775, he was nearly unresponsive to the repeated pleas of the College for information about its financial status. For more than two years, the Corporation tried to manage the school's funds while requesting action from their Treasurer. The Corporation elected a new treasurer on July 14, 1777, and Hancock learned of his dismissal from a newspaper advertisement.

In the closing years of the war, Massachusetts citizens elected Hancock governor in 1780. Hancock began a second term in 1784, but resigned on January 29, 1785 due to illness. Though his health problems continued, he was reelected governor in 1787 and continued in the position until his death on October 8, 1793.

Hancock married Dorothy Quincy (1747-1830) in 1775. Their two children, Lydia Hancock (1776-1777) and John George Washington Hancock (1778-1787) died in childhood.

From the guide to the John Hancock Collection, 1754-1792, (Harvard University Archives)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
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referencedIn Records relating to estate, real estate, and private investment management, 1765-1945 (inclusive). Harvard Business School, Knowledge and Library Services/Baker Library
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creatorOf John Hancock Collection, 1754-1792 Harvard University Archives.
referencedIn Washington Irving collection, 1683-1839, (bulk 1753-1839) Stanford University. Libraries. Dept. of Special Collections and University Archives.
referencedIn Kean, Jefferson Randolph, 1860-1950. Papers of Jefferson Randolph Kean, 1765-1938. University of Virginia. Library
creatorOf John Hancock Letter, 1770 Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries
referencedIn Dreer, Ferdinand Julius, 1812-1902,. Literary and scientific autographs and manuscripts, 1703-1900. Historical Society of Pennsylvania
contributorOf October THRU December 1789 United States. National Archives and Records Administration
creatorOf Strong, Caleb, 1745-1819. Papers, 1657-1818. Library of Congress
referencedIn Waine, William. Papers, 1728-1799. American Antiquarian Society
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: W. Heath. 2/13/1789 - 2/13/1789. William Heath Letter to John Hancock February 16, 1789
creatorOf Hancock, John, 1737-1793. DS, 1776 November 19, and 1776 November 21, In Congress, [Philadelphia]. Copley Press, J S Copley Library
referencedIn Andrews, John, 1736-1809. American Revolution collection : biographical materials, 18th-20th centuries. Lexington Historical Society
creatorOf Hancock, John, 1737-1793. John Hancock papers, 1775 June 21 Detroit Public Library, Detroit Main Library
creatorOf Cushing, William, 1732-1810. Letter : Boston, to John Hancock, Governor of Massachusetts, 1783 Dec. 20. Pierpont Morgan Library.
referencedIn Henry G. Peabody Collection of Photographs and Negatives, 1859-1993, (bulk 1890s-1900s) The Huntington Library
creatorOf New Portland (Me. : Town). Proprietors. Records, 1791-1828. Maine Historical Society Library
referencedIn Crossley, Archibald, Mrs. Mrs. Archibald Crossley autograph collection, 1767-1861. Library of Congress
creatorOf Trumbull, Jonathan, 1740-1809. Papers, 1753-1832. Connecticut Historical Society
creatorOf McClintock, Nathaniel, 1757-1780. Commission, 1777 Apr. 02. Portsmouth Athenaeum Library & Museum
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 University of Connecticut, President's Office Records [Homer D. Babbidge, 1962-1972], undated, 1962-1972. Archives and Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries
creatorOf Stewart, Charles, 1729-1800. Papers, 1768-1877. Harvard University, Houghton Library
referencedIn National Society of the Colonial Dames of America in the State of Illinois. Illinois Society of the Colonial Dames' copies of source materials, ca. 1730s-1940s. Chicago History Museum
referencedIn Autograph File, M, 1648-1985. Houghton Library.
referencedIn B. A. G. Fuller autograph collection, 1620-1920. Houghton Library.
referencedIn Klos, Stanley L. Forgotten Founders collection, 2008-2009. Historical Society of Pennsylvania
referencedIn Southard Hay autograph collection, 1750-1885 Yale University. Department of Manuscripts and Archives
creatorOf Cushing, Nathaniel, 1762-1827. Papers, 1776-1827. Library of Congress
creatorOf Karzhavin, F. V. (Fedor Vasilʹevich), 1745-1812. Letters, 1773-1788. Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Library
creatorOf Bartlett, Joseph, 1762-1827. Letter to John Hancock [manuscript], 1786 February 12. 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 Massachusetts. Provincial Congress. Letter : to the Governor and Company of Connecticut, 1775 Apr. 10. Rosenbach Museum & Library
referencedIn Trumbull, Joseph, 1737-1778. Joseph Trumbull papers, 1776. Library of Congress
referencedIn Columbia University. Teachers College. Education manuscripts, [ca. 1682-1983]. Campbell University, Wiggins Memorial Library
referencedIn Levi Woodbury Family Papers, 1638-1914, (bulk 1804-1897) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
creatorOf Boston (Mass.). Citizens. Petitions, 1759-1773, Boston, Mass. Brown University, John Hay Library
referencedIn Thomas Addis Emmet collection, 1483-1876, 1700-1800 New York Public Library. Manuscripts and Archives Division
creatorOf Guild, Curtis, 1860-1915. Autograph collection, 1642-1928. Massachusetts Historical Society
creatorOf Heath, William, 1737-1814. Papers, 1774-1872. Massachusetts Historical Society
creatorOf Hancock, John, 1737-1793. Letter to John Watts, 1773 May 14. University of Pennsylvania Libraries, Van Pelt Library
referencedIn Gibbes, Caleb, Major. Orderly book, 1778, Aug. 8-28 / kept by Major [Caleb?] Gibbes [or Gibbs]. Society of the Cincinnati Library
creatorOf Hancock, John, 1737-1793. Autograph signature to a resolution passed by the United States Congress, 1776 Dec. 30. Pierpont Morgan Library.
referencedIn Harvard University. Treasurer. Records of the Treasurer of Harvard University, 1669-2008. Harvard University, Archives
creatorOf Knox, Henry, 1750-1806. LS, 1782 October 20 : West Point, to John Hancock. Copley Press, J S Copley Library
creatorOf Hancock family. Papers II, 1744-1804. Massachusetts Historical Society
referencedIn Washington Irving's Life of George Washington, Volume III, Miscellany, 1756-1807. Cornell University Library
creatorOf Davis, Jefferson, 1808-1889. Papers concerning the Woodbury and Clapp families [manuscript], 1776-1973. University of Virginia. Library
creatorOf Hancock, John, 1737-1793. John Hancock collection, 1776-1781. Princeton University Library
referencedIn United States. Congress. Resolutions regarding the lottery, 1777 February 26. American Periodical Series I
referencedIn Washington Irving's Life of George Washington, Volume 13, Miscellany, 1771-1832. Cornell University Library
creatorOf Hancock, John, 1737-1793. Autograph signature to a "copy taken from" (his) will, [n.d.]. Pierpont Morgan Library.
creatorOf Hancock family. Hancock family papers, 1690-1886 and undated. Lexington Historical Society
creatorOf Hancock, John, 1737-1793. ANS, 1765, June : Boston / Faneuil-Hall lottery ticket. Copley Press, J S Copley Library
referencedIn Stamp Act collection, 1765-1768. Library of Congress
referencedIn Hancock family. Hancock family papers, 1690-1886 and undated. Lexington Historical Society
referencedIn Heath, William, 1737-1814. Papers of William Heath, 1774-1872 (bulk 1774-1814). Library of Congress
referencedIn Holten, Samuel, 1738-1816. Papers of Samuel Holten, 1630-1843 (bulk 1744-1843). Library of Congress
referencedIn Harvard University. Board of Overseers. Meeting minutes maintained by the Secretary, 1775-1816. Harvard University, Archives
creatorOf Alexander family. Alexander papers, 1668-1818 (bulk 1717-1786). Churchill County Museum
creatorOf United States. Continental Congress. Commission, 1776 Nov. 21, Philadelphia, of Thomas DeWitt. Rosenbach Museum & Library
referencedIn Henry A. Willard II Collection, 1743-1888, (bulk 1770-1840) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
referencedIn Alexander, William, 1848-. Trade catalogs of insurance, [1837?]-1946. University of California, Santa Barbara, UCSB Library
creatorOf United States. Continental Congress. In Congress. The delegates of the United Colonies of New-Hampshire, Massachusetts-Bay, Rhode-Island, Connecticut, New-York, New-Jersey, Pennsylvania, the Counties of Newcastle, Kent, and Suffolk on Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North-Carolina, and South Carolina to the Reverend Noah Cooke Junr. We ... do by these presents constitute and appoint you to be chaplain of the fifth Regiment of Foot Commanded by Colonel John Stark, and to the eighth Regiment Commanded by Colonel Enoch Poor in the army of the United Colonies, raised for the defense of American Liberty, and for repelling every invasion thereof ..., 1776. Harvard University, Archives
referencedIn Jared Sparks collection of American manuscripts, 1582-1843. Houghton Library.
creatorOf Keith, Israel, 1751-1819. Papers, 1767-1803. Massachusetts Historical Society
creatorOf Hancock, John, 1737-1793. Appointment of James Sullivan as justice to keep the peace, 1788 Mar. 26. Texas Christian University
referencedIn Samuel Holten Papers, 1630-1843, (bulk 1744-1843) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
referencedIn Hayes, Rutherford Birchard, 1822-1893. Rutherford Birchard Hayes papers, 1775-1895 (bulk 1876-1881). Library of Congress
referencedIn Stark, John, 1728-1822. Papers, 1758-1819. New Hampshire Historical Society Library
referencedIn May, Joseph. Letter, 1799 Aug. 14, Boston, to Ebenezer Hancock. Boston Athenaeum
referencedIn Magner, John. Receipt, 1783 December, to John Hancock. New England Historic Genealogical Society
referencedIn Letters and documents of signers of the Declaration of Independence, 1750-1933. Houghton Library.
referencedIn Commission collection, 1720-1829. New York State Historical Documents
referencedIn U.S. History mss., 1612-1977 Lilly Library (Indiana University, Bloomington)
creatorOf Hancock, John, 1737-1793. ALS, 1782 May 6, Boston, to John Brown, Now bound to Philadelphia. Copley Press, J S Copley Library
creatorOf Adams, John, 1735-1826. Massachusetts papers, 1749-1777 Massachusetts Historical Society
referencedIn Smith, Jonathan Bayard, 1742-1812. The Henley Smith Collection, 1686-1903. Library of Congress
referencedIn Papers, 1775-1782. Houghton Library.
referencedIn Page, John, 1744-1808. Letters, 1776-1780. Library of Virginia
referencedIn Constitutional Convention Constitution of the United States: Papers Relating to Adoption by the State of Rhode Island, 1785-1790 Rhode Island State Archives
referencedIn Papers of John Coolidge and Agnes Mongan, 1909-2006 Harvard Art Museum Archives
creatorOf Historical Society of East and West Baton Rouge. Historical Society of East and West Baton Rouge records, 1776-1919 (bulk 1915-1919). Louisiana State University, LSU Libraries
creatorOf Massachusetts. Governor (1787-1793 : Hancock). Letter of John Hancock to George Clinton 1787 [microform]. Boston Athenaeum
referencedIn Jones, William. Letters, 1771 July 10 and 1771 August 1, Bristol [England], to John Hancock [Boston, Mass.]. New England Historic Genealogical Society
creatorOf Rush, Benjamin, 1746-1813. [Collection of letters between Rush and George Washington, 1777-1803, compiled by Nathan G. Goodman. College of Physicians of Philadelphia
creatorOf Letter from Governor John Hancock to President George Washington United States. National Archives and Records Administration
referencedIn Records of the Treasurer of Harvard University, 1669-2008 Harvard University Archives.
creatorOf Hancock, John, 1737-1793. Letter, 1796. University of Pennsylvania Library
creatorOf Massachusetts. Governor (1780-1785 : Hancock). Autograph and seal of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, [between 1780 and 1793]. Buffalo History Museum, Research Library
creatorOf Orme, Robert, d. 1781. Letter, 1755 July 18, Fort Cumberland, to Gov. Robert Hunter Morris. New England Historic Genealogical Society
creatorOf Perkins, William, 1742-1802. William Perkins papers, 1775-1878; bulk: 1775-1801. Massachusetts Historical Society
referencedIn Perkins, Daniel. Papers, 1835-1837. Massachusetts Historical Society
referencedIn Ward, Ephraim. Letter, 1788, March 2, Brookfield, Mass., to Revd. Enos Hitchcock, Providence. Brown University, John Hay Library
creatorOf Hancock, John, 1737-1793. John Hancock warrant, 1790. Maine Historical Society Library
referencedIn Peabody, Henry G. (Henry Greenwood), 1855-1951. Henry G. Peabody Collection of Photographs and Negatives [graphic], 1859-1993, (bulk 1890s-1900s). Huntington Library, Art Collections & Botanical Gardens
creatorOf John Hancock letter, 1776 Brooklyn Historical Society
creatorOf Hancock, John, 1737-1793. Letter, 1791 Mar. 24, Boston [to Henry] Knox / John Hancock. Washington & Lee University, James G. Leyburn Library
creatorOf Hancock, John, 1737-1793. Papers, 1774-1838. Duke University Libraries, Duke University Library; Perkins Library
creatorOf Boston (Mass.). Selectmen. Petitions : manuscript, 1778 and [ca. 177--178-] Harvard University, Houghton Library
creatorOf Hancock, John, 1737-1793. DS, 1781 September 20. : Boston. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Appointment. Copley Press, J S Copley Library
creatorOf Hancock, John, 1737-1793. DS, 1788 September 18. : Boston. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Appointment of Aaron Wood. Copley Press, J S Copley Library
referencedIn Wharton, Carpenter, 1747-1780. Carpenter Wharton correspondence, 1776-1777. Cornell University Library
referencedIn Adams and Nourse. ALS : Boston, to Hon. George Thatcher, Esq., 1798 April 12. Boston Public Library, Central Library in Copley Square
creatorOf Washington, George, 1732-1799. Letter, New York, to John Hancock [manuscript] 1789 May 9. University of Virginia. Library
creatorOf Bernard, Simon, 1779-1839. Bowyer-Hubard Papers, 1767-1782 and 1816. Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Library
creatorOf Lincoln, Benjamin, 1733-1810. [Letter] 1787 Dec. 21, Boston [to] His Excellency the Governor [John Hancock] / B. Lincoln. Texas Tech University Libraries, Academic Library
referencedIn Papers, 1768-1872. Houghton Library.
creatorOf Hancock, John, 1737-1793. Letter signed : to Richard Caswell, 1778 Feb. 16. Pierpont Morgan Library.
referencedIn Morris family. Morris family papers, 1732-1834. Connecticut Historical Society
referencedIn Ballinger (William Pitt) Papers BALLINGER, WILLIAM PITT., 1815-1909 Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin .
creatorOf Massachusetts. Treasury Office. Ledger of estates of absentees, 1780-1795 (bulk 1781-1791) Commonwealth of Massachusetts State Archives
creatorOf Hancock, John, 1737-1793. ALS, 1779 November 5, Castle Island, to Board of War of the State of Massachusetts Bay. Copley Press, J S Copley Library
referencedIn Selectmen's report on the visitation of the schools, 1771 May 7, Boston. Boston Athenaeum
creatorOf William L. Clements Library. Abraham Whipple papers, 1763-1793. University of Michigan, William Clements Library
referencedIn Benjamin Franklin Papers Part 2 -- Letters to Franklin, 1777 January-1778 March American Philosophical Society
contributorOf August THRU October 1790 United States. National Archives and Records Administration
referencedIn George Frisbie Hoar autograph collection, 1598-1945. Houghton Library.
referencedIn Huntington, Samuel, 1731-1796. Correspondence, 1783-1794. Gadsden Public Library
creatorOf Hancock, John, 1737-1793. American Revolution collection : commemorations, 1789-1965. Lexington Historical Society
creatorOf Hancock, John, 1737-1793. John Hancock papers, 1774-1865. Library of Congress
creatorOf Greenough, Charles P. (Charles Pelham), 1844-1924. Papers, 1669-1963, bulk: 1800-1870. Library of Congress
referencedIn Miscellaneous European papers, circa 1600-1903 and undated. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
creatorOf Price, Ezekiel, 1727-1802. Certificates of appointment to the office of Justice of the Peace, 1780-1802. Boston Athenaeum
referencedIn Papers, 1774-1847. Houghton Library.
creatorOf Hancock, John, 1737-1793. Victor V. Martin autograph collection, 1694-1945. University of Virginia. Library
creatorOf Parsons, Samuel Holden, 1735-1789. Samuel Holden Parsons papers [microform] : in the Western Reserve Historical Society, Cleveland, Ohio 1760-1830. Ohio History Connection, Ohio Historical Society
referencedIn Hay, Southard, 1875-1951,. Southard Hay autograph collection, 1750-1885 (inclusive). Yale University Library
creatorOf Gulick, John Story, 1817-1884,. John Story Gulick collection of American statesmen, [1785-1898]. Princeton University Library
referencedIn May, Joseph, 1760-1841. Letter, 1839 June 10, Boston, to Samuel J. May, North Scituate. Boston Athenaeum
referencedIn Harvard University. Board of Overseers. Formal meeting minutes, 1707-1982. Harvard University, Archives
creatorOf Hancock, John, 1737-1793. Mount Vernon, Me., act of incorporation, 1792 June 28. Maine Historical Society Library
referencedIn United States Continental Congress Records, 1765-1825, (bulk 1774-1790) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
creatorOf Lee, Charles, 1731-1782. ALS, 1776 June 3 : Charlestown, to Colonel William Palfrey, Pay Master General of the Continent, Head Quarters. Copley Press, J S Copley Library
referencedIn Marian S. Carson collection of manuscripts, 1656-1995, (bulk 1700-1876) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
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
creatorOf Purviance, Samuel Dinsmore, 1774-1806. Correspondence [manuscript] 1775-1787. University of Virginia. Library
referencedIn Merry Mount Granite Company. [Material concerning a memorial to John Hancock]. State Library of Massachusetts
referencedIn Stillman, George, ca. 1750-1804. Papers of George Stillman, 1775-1803. Library of Congress
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
referencedIn Timothy, Peter, 1725?-1782. Peter Timothy papers, 1777-1779. Library of Congress
referencedIn CORRESPONDENCE of General Haldimand with various officers and others, relative to the exchange of prisoners, and to the affairs of the State of Vermont; 1780-1784. The original letters are from Colonel G. V. Schaich, commanding at Albany; Feb.-Apr. 1..., 1780-1784 British Library
creatorOf Hancock, John, 1737-1793. Autograph signature to order of appointment, 1775 July 1. Pierpont Morgan Library.
referencedIn Hancock Family. Hancock Family papers, 1712-1854 (inclusive). Harvard Business School, Knowledge and Library Services/Baker Library
referencedIn Records relating to estate, real estate, and private investment management, 1765-1945 (inclusive) [microform]. Harvard Business School, Knowledge and Library Services/Baker Library
referencedIn Willard, Henry A. (Henry Augustus), 1902-. Henry A. Willard II collection, 1743-1888 (bulk 1770-1840). Library of Congress
creatorOf Paine, Robert Treat, 1731-1814. Robert Treat Paine papers, 1659-1862. Massachusetts Historical Society
creatorOf Hancock, John, 1737-1793. Autograph signature to a proclamation, 1787 Sept. 29. Pierpont Morgan Library.
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