The Declaration of Independence was approved by the Second Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, but it was not signed until almost a month later. The Congress did not have the approval of all 13 colonies until July 9, 1776. On July 19, Congress ordered that an official copy of the document be created. The order called for handwritten ornamental script to be used on parchment paper with the title "The unanimous declaration of the thirteen United States of America." Using a quill pen, this took some time to finish. The actual signing finally took place on August 2, 1776.

As President of the Second Continental Congress, John Hancock was the first to sign this historic document. He used large bold script and signed under the text in the center of the page. At that time, a general practice was to sign below text on the right and by geographic location. Using this protocol, signatures of the New Hampshire delegates began the list with the column on the right. Delegates from Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina, the southernmost states, ended the list with the column on the left. Some of the delegates were not in Philadelphia on that day, but signed the document later. One of the New Hampshire delegates, Matthew Thornton, added his signature later at the bottom of the right column. Not all delegates signed the document.

The signers of the Declaration of Independence included future Presidents, Vice Presidents, and members of the United States Congress. Below are the names of the men who signed the Declaration of Independence and the states that they represented:

Column 1


Button Gwinnett
Lyman Hall
George Walton

Column 2

North Carolina:

William Hooper
Joseph Hewes
John Penn

South Carolina:

Edward Rutledge
Thomas Heyward, Jr.
Thomas Lynch, Jr.
Arthur Middleton

Column 3


John Hancock


Samuel Chase
William Paca
Thomas Stone
Charles Carroll of Carrollton


George Wythe
Richard Henry Lee
Thomas Jefferson
Benjamin Harrison
Thomas Nelson, Jr.
Francis Lightfoot Lee
Carter Braxton

Column 4


Robert Morris
Benjamin Rush
Benjamin Franklin
John Morton
George Clymer
James Smith
George Taylor
James Wilson
George Ross


Caesar Rodney
George Read
Thomas McKean

Column 5

New York:

William Floyd
Philip Livingston
Francis Lewis
Lewis Morris

New Jersey:

Richard Stockton
John Witherspoon
Francis Hopkinson
John Hart
Abraham Clark

Column 6

New Hampshire:

Josiah Bartlett
William Whipple


Samuel Adams
John Adams
Robert Treat Paine
Elbridge Gerry

Rhode Island:

Stephen Hopkins
William Ellery


Roger Sherman
Samuel Huntington
William Williams
Oliver Wolcott

New Hampshire:

Matthew Thornton