John Hancock, born on January 23, 1737, in Braintree, Massachusetts (now Quincy, Massachusetts), was a pivotal figure in American history during the late 18th century.
He is perhaps best known for his distinctive and bold signature on the United States Declaration of Independence.
Hancock’s life was marked by a journey from a prosperous merchant and heir to a leading role in the American Revolution, culminating in his service as the president of the Continental Congress.
Subsequently, he became a prominent governor of Massachusetts, shaping the early years of the United States with his leadership. This timeline explores key moments in John Hancock’s life, illustrating his enduring legacy in the annals of American history.
|January 23, 1737
|John Hancock is born in Braintree, Massachusetts (now Quincy, Massachusetts).
|Orphaned at a young age, Hancock is adopted by his wealthy uncle, Thomas Hancock, a successful merchant.
|Hancock graduates from Harvard College.
|Upon the death of his uncle Thomas Hancock, John Hancock inherits a substantial fortune and takes over his uncle’s business interests, including a shipping and trading company.
|Hancock becomes involved in the American resistance to the Stamp Act, a tax imposed by the British Parliament on the American colonies.
|Hancock is elected as a selectman (town council member) in Boston.
|British troops are stationed in Boston, leading to increased tensions between the colonists and the British government.
|March 5, 1770
|The Boston Massacre occurs, during which British soldiers open fire on a crowd of colonists, killing five and injuring several others.
|Hancock is elected as a delegate to the Massachusetts Provincial Congress, which convenes in response to British policies.
|April 18, 1775
|Paul Revere’s famous midnight ride warns Hancock and Samuel Adams of British troops advancing to Lexington and Concord, leading to the Battles of Lexington and Concord, often considered the start of the American Revolution.
|Hancock serves as the president of the Continental Congress, making him one of the most prominent leaders of the revolutionary movement. He signs the United States Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, with his distinctive large signature.
|Hancock continues to serve as the president of the Continental Congress, overseeing the early years of the Revolutionary War.
|Hancock resigns as president of the Continental Congress but remains active in politics and public service.
|Hancock is elected as the governor of Massachusetts, a position he holds for nine terms until his death.
|October 8, 1793
|John Hancock passes away in Quincy, Massachusetts, at the age of 56.
Timeline of John Hancock
January 23, 1737: John Hancock is born in Braintree, Massachusetts (now Quincy, Massachusetts)
John Hancock was born into a family of English descent in the American colonies. His birthplace of Braintree was a small town in Massachusetts, and it played a significant role in shaping his early life.
1744: Orphaned at a young age, Hancock is adopted by his wealthy uncle, Thomas Hancock, a successful merchant
Tragedy struck John Hancock’s family when he was just seven years old. Both of his parents passed away, leaving him orphaned.
Fortunately, he was taken in and raised by his wealthy and childless uncle, Thomas Hancock. Thomas Hancock was a prominent merchant and businessman in Boston, and his wealth and influence would greatly benefit young John Hancock’s upbringing.
1754: Hancock graduates from Harvard College.
John Hancock received an excellent education and attended Harvard College, one of the most prestigious institutions in the American colonies at the time.
His education at Harvard provided him with a strong foundation in classical studies and prepared him for a life of leadership and public service.
1760: Upon the death of his uncle Thomas Hancock, John Hancock inherits a substantial fortune
In 1760, John Hancock’s life took a significant turn with the passing of his uncle Thomas Hancock. Thomas was not only a father figure to John but also a prosperous merchant.
With Thomas’s death, John inherited a substantial fortune, becoming one of the wealthiest men in Massachusetts. He also inherited his uncle’s successful shipping and trading business.
This inheritance provided John Hancock with financial security and laid the foundation for his future ventures.
1765: Hancock becomes involved in the American resistance to the Stamp Act
The year 1765 marked the introduction of the Stamp Act by the British Parliament, a tax imposed on American colonists that required them to pay a tax on various paper goods and documents, including newspapers and legal documents.
This act met with strong opposition from American colonists who believed it violated their rights as British subjects. John Hancock, now a prominent and wealthy figure in Boston, became actively involved in the growing resistance to the Stamp Act.
He was among those who protested against the tax and supported boycotts of British goods, demonstrating his early commitment to the cause of American liberty.
1766: Hancock is elected as a selectman (town council member) in Boston
John Hancock’s involvement in public life continued to grow when he was elected as a selectman in Boston in 1766. Selectmen were responsible for managing the affairs of the town, making important decisions, and representing the interests of the local community.
This position allowed Hancock to gain valuable experience in local governance and solidify his role as a community leader.
His service as a selectman marked the beginning of his political career, which would eventually lead him to more prominent roles in the events leading up to the American Revolution.
1768: British troops are stationed in Boston, leading to increased tensions between the colonists and the British government
In 1768, as tensions between the American colonists and the British government continued to escalate, British troops were stationed in Boston to maintain order and enforce British policies.
This deployment of troops heightened the existing tensions and created an atmosphere of resentment and unrest among the colonists.
John Hancock, who was already involved in local politics and opposed to British policies, closely observed these developments and saw firsthand the impact of British military presence on the city and its residents.
March 5, 1770: The Boston Massacre occurs, during which British soldiers open fire on a crowd of colonists, killing five and injuring several others
The Boston Massacre was a pivotal and tragic event in the lead-up to the American Revolution. On this day, a confrontation between a group of angry colonists and British soldiers guarding the Boston Customs House turned violent.
British soldiers fired into the crowd, resulting in the deaths of five colonists and injuries to several others. John Hancock was a prominent figure in Boston at the time and was deeply affected by the incident.
The Boston Massacre further fueled anti-British sentiment and increased demands for justice among the colonists.
1774: Hancock is elected as a delegate to the Massachusetts Provincial Congress, which convenes in response to British policies
In response to the punitive measures imposed by the British government in the wake of events like the Boston Tea Party, Massachusetts convened the Provincial Congress in 1774.
John Hancock was elected as a delegate to this congress, which played a crucial role in coordinating colonial resistance efforts. It was during this time that Hancock’s role in the broader struggle for American independence began to take center stage.
His leadership and advocacy for colonial rights became even more prominent as tensions with Britain continued to rise.
April 18, 1775: Paul Revere’s famous midnight ride warns Hancock and Samuel Adams of British troops advancing to Lexington and Concord
On the night of April 18, 1775, silversmith and patriot Paul Revere made his famous midnight ride to warn John Hancock and Samuel Adams that British troops were advancing to seize colonial munitions in Lexington and Concord.
Hancock and Adams were staying in Lexington at the time. This warning played a critical role in the events that followed, as it allowed the colonial militias to prepare for the Battles of Lexington and Concord, which are often regarded as the beginning of the American Revolution.
John Hancock’s presence and leadership during these events underscored his commitment to the cause of American independence.
1775-1777: Hancock serves as the president of the Continental Congress
John Hancock’s tenure as the president of the Continental Congress marked a pivotal period in his life and in the American Revolution. He was elected as president in May 1775, shortly after the outbreak of the Revolutionary War.
In this role, Hancock presided over the Congress and played a crucial part in uniting the colonies against British oppression. One of his most iconic moments occurred on July 4, 1776, when he was the first to sign the United States Declaration of Independence.
His bold and prominent signature on the document has become synonymous with signing one’s name and is often used to represent a signature in the United States.
1777-1780: Hancock continues to serve as the president of the Continental Congress, overseeing the early years of the Revolutionary War
John Hancock’s leadership as the president of the Continental Congress extended beyond the signing of the Declaration of Independence. He remained in this role for several more years, overseeing the early phases of the Revolutionary War.
During this time, he faced significant challenges in funding and organizing the Continental Army, managing relations with foreign powers, and maintaining the unity of the American colonies.
Hancock’s steady leadership during this critical period contributed to the eventual success of the American Revolution.
1780: Hancock resigns as president of the Continental Congress but remains active in politics and public service
In 1780, after serving multiple terms as president of the Continental Congress, John Hancock decided to step down from this position. His decision to resign was driven by a desire to focus on state-level politics and governance.
However, his dedication to the cause of American independence did not wane. He continued to be actively involved in public service, particularly in Massachusetts, where he was elected as the governor.
His leadership in this role helped guide Massachusetts during the challenging post-Revolutionary period, as the state worked to establish a stable government and recover from the ravages of war.
1785: Hancock is elected as the governor of Massachusetts, a position he holds for nine terms until his death
John Hancock’s election as the governor of Massachusetts in 1785 marked the beginning of a long and influential tenure in state government. He would go on to serve a total of nine terms as governor, making him one of the longest-serving governors in Massachusetts history.
His popularity and leadership qualities were evident in his repeated electoral victories, and his tenure in office coincided with a crucial period in the early years of the United States.
As governor, Hancock faced a range of challenges and responsibilities. Massachusetts was grappling with post-war recovery, the need to establish a stable state government, and the formulation of state policies. Hancock worked to rebuild the state’s economy, infrastructure, and government institutions.
He also played a role in addressing issues related to veterans’ benefits and land grants to war veterans. His leadership contributed to the stability and progress of Massachusetts during this critical period.
October 8, 1793: John Hancock passes away in Quincy, Massachusetts, at the age of 56
On October 8, 1793, John Hancock’s life came to an end at the age of 56. His death marked the passing of one of the most prominent and influential figures in early American history.
Hancock’s contributions to the American Revolution, his leadership as governor of Massachusetts, and his role in shaping the young United States left a lasting legacy.
Hancock’s death was mourned by many, and he was buried in the Hancock Cemetery in Quincy, Massachusetts. The town of Quincy has since become a place of historical significance, with memorials and landmarks dedicated to his memory, including the John Hancock Birthplace and the John Hancock House.