How Many Men Signed the Declaration of Independence?

The Declaration of Independence was signed by 56 people. Although John Hancock, the president of the Continental Congress, signed the document on July 4, 1776, most of the delegates probably added their signatures on Aug. 2, 1776. The last signer added his name on Nov. 4, 1776.

The signing of the Declaration of Independence was a symbolic gesture, as it had already become official by congressional vote. John Hancock’s signature was not only the first but also the largest. It was so iconic that his name became synonymous with the word “signature.” Historians disagree about whether most of the delegates signed on July 4 or August 2. However, some delegates must have signed later than July 4 because they joined Congress after the July 4 adoption of the document. The last person to sign was Matthew Thornton of New Hampshire, who joined the Continental Congress in November, 1776, and signed in the lower right corner of the document. The youngest signer was Edward Rutledge, at 26 years old, and the oldest was Benjamin Franklin, at 70 years old.

Not all the delegates to the Second Continental Congress signed the Declaration of Independence. Some had voted against it, while others were away when the document was being signed. The first version sent out to the states did not include all 56 signatures, but on Jan. 18, 1777, Congress mandated that another version that included the signatures be distributed to the 13 states.