As we prepare to celebrate the 243rd birthday of our country we thought it might be interesting to learn about the jobs of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. Besides creating a new republic and a model form of government they had to put food on the table. After all, think tanks and government jobs were still far in the future.
There were 56 men who signed that historic document. We won’t outline the entire list as the vast majority of the signers were listed as “merchant”, “lawyer” or “plantation owner”. Those are pretty broad categories. We decided to do a little digging to see if we could come up with a few more interesting resume entries…
- Josiah Bartlett hailed from Amesbury, MA. By the age of 17 he had learned both Latin and Greek. He also began the study of medicine. At 21 he moved Kingston, NH to open up his practice. He was the only doctor in that part of the county.
- Charles Carroll hailed from Annapolis, MD. He is better known by his name Charles of Carrolton. We had to include this because of, well, New Carrollton, MD. He was born into a wealthy land-owning family so, as such, he did not have to work for a living. A couple of notable items from his history were that he was barred from holding office in Maryland because of his religion. And, he presided over a 10,000-acre estate and owned 1,000 slaves.
- William Ellery was born in Newport, RI. He graduated from Harvard at age 20 and became a merchant, a customs inspector and, eventually, a clerk in the Rhode Island General Assembly.
- John Hancock was born in Braintree, MA. His father died when John was seven and he went to live with his aunt and uncle. They owned a firm known as House of Hancock which imported goods from Britain and exported, rum, whale oil, and fish. When his uncle dies John Hancock inherited the firm.
- Francis Hopkinson was born in Philadelphia and is one of the many signees who were lawyers. However, he had varied interests. His income was derived from a “dry goods” business he operated. However, he was also a prolific writer of poems and pamphlets and also became an accomplished musician on the harpsichord. He is also known as the person who designed the first official US flag, Continental currency, and the first US coin.
- Robert Treat Paine was born in Boston. At the age of 14 he entered Harvard College and graduated at 18. He taught locally for several years before becoming a lawyer.
- George Taylor was born in Ireland but immigrated to America at the age of 20. To pay for his passage he was indentured to the ironmaster at the Warwick Furnace and Coventry Forge. He began as a laborer but was thought to have been promoted to bookkeeper. He later married his former master’s widow and ran two ironworks.
- George Walton was born in Cumberland County, VA. His parents died when he was an infant and he went to live with an aunt and uncle. He apprenticed as a carpenter but later went on to become a lawyer.
These are just a few stories of the men who took a stand and believed in our independence. As you grill and chill in the coming weeks remember that our long, national journey began with these (and many other) brave souls.