As we prepare to celebrate our nation's birthday this year, it's a good time to recall who these brave and fearless signers of our birth certificate were. Living and breathing, flesh and blood real human beings. With different backgrounds, personalities, fortunes, and loves. What follows are 25 ways to know them better.
1. Over 20 of the 56 Signers were lawyers Around 13 were merchants or businessmen. 8 gentleman farmers. 4 physicians. And one, John Witherspoon, a minister---Presbyterian to be exact.
2. Samuel Chase, who later served on the U.S. Supreme Court, was nicknamed "Bacon Face". It seems his plump visage turned scarlet when exasperated.
3. William Paca was the only one of Italian descent.
4. Richard Henry Lee had a maimed hand from a hunting accident; he kept it wrapped in a black hankerchief.
5. Dr. Benjamin Rush, whose chops in medicine were even recognized in Europe, opened the first free dispensary in the U.S. at Philadelphia in 1786.
6. George Clymer of Pennsylvania championed penal reform while serving in his state legislature from 1784-1788.
7. When Ben Franklin arrived at the Second Continental Congress, there were baseless rumors he was a British spy.
8. John Morton who was of Swedish descent was the first of the Signers to die. He returned to his Creator in April of 1777.
9. Two of the Signers were brothers: the aforementioned Richard Henry Lee and Francis Lightfoot Lee.
10. Francis Lewis was a merchant who supplied uniforms to the British during the French and Indian War.
11. George Ross, a bon vivant of sorts, said on his deathbed that he was going to a place where "there were most excellent wines".
12. Signer Benjamin Harrison's son William H. became our 9th president, and his great-grandson, of the same name, our 23rd.
13. John Hart had 13 children. One more than Josiah Bartlett.
14. Those who know these things consider Francis Hopkinson to be the first native American composer.
15. George Read was one of the founders of the United States navy.
16. Roger Sherman is the only American to sign these 4 significant historical documents: the Continental Association of 1774; the Declaration of Independence; the Articles of Confederation; and the Federal Constitution.
17. William Whipple was usually addressed as the "old sea captain".
18. Josiah Bartlett was the first to vote for the Declaration of Independence.
19. Caesar Rodney, one of 3 bachelors, was suffering at the time from a disfiguring cancer to his face and eye.
20. Edward Rutledge at 26 was the youngest Signer and 70-year-old Ben Franklin the oldest.
21. Thomas Lynch, who in 1779 was to take off for France via the West Indies to recover from a siege of ill health , tragically was lost at sea.
22. Two of the Signers were doggedly hunted by the British as outlaws: Samuel Adams and John Hancock. At the beginning of the war, British General Gage offered peace and pardon, except for Adams and Hancock.
23. Robert Tree Paine was one of the founders of the American Academy of Arts and Science.
24. Elbridge Gerry---who lives on in the word 'gerrymander'---was elected James Madison's veep, but died suddenly in his carriage returning to the Capitol on November 23, 1814.
25. Charles Carroll of Carrollton, the only Roman Catholic Signer, outlived his 55 confreres. He died in 1832 at the age of 94. He was thus the only Signer to see a steam locomotive.