John Hancock Lesson for Kids: Facts & Biography

Instructor: Debra Patuto

Debra has taught at elementary levels and has an M.ed with certification in elementary education and special education

John Hancock was not only the first person to sign the Declaration of Independence, but he signed it by far the biggest and top center. You can't miss it! Let's learn more about John Hancock and the contributions he made to American History.

Who Is John Hancock?

When someone asks for your John Hancock, it means they want your signature. John Hancock the man is remembered to this day because of his large, bold signature on the Declaration of Independence. He was not only the first person to sign the Declaration of Independence, but he was also a wealthy 18th century United States merchant involved in trading goods, president of the Continental Congress, and governor of Massachusetts.

Early Life

John Hancock was born on January 23, 1737, in Braintree, Massachusetts. John's father died when he was only seven and his mother raised him and his siblings in Lexington, Massachusetts. When John got a bit older, he was sent to live with his aunt and uncle, Lydia and Thomas Hancock.

John attended Harvard College and in 1754, when he graduated, he went to work for his uncle. Thomas Hancock owned a successful shipping business, and when Thomas died in 1764, John took over the business. John was extremely wealthy and lived a lifestyle filled with luxury.

A Portrait of John Hancock

Political Beginning

During the 1760s, as John was getting involved in politics at city and colonial levels, it just so happened that American colonialists were getting fed up with the British putting taxes on traded goods. John led protests against the British, and allegedly began smuggling goods aboard his ships. The British found out and he was given a very large fine. This fine, however, didn't stop him from participating in the Boston Tea Party with his fellow Patriots.

Declaration of Independence

In 1774, John Hancock became the leader of the Massachusetts delegate to the second Continental Congress. Around this time, John and Samuel Adams were living in Lexington, Massachusetts and had bad reputations as rebels with the British. British general Thomas Gage was determined to find these two men and arrest them. On April 18, 1775, Paul Revere went on a night ride and warned everyone that British forces were on their way. John and Samuel Adams fled Lexington and traveled to Philadelphia, where the Continental Congress would meet.

This house is in Lexington, Massachusetts and is the house John Hancock and Samuel Adams were living in before they fled to avoid being found by the British troops.
hancock-clark house

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