What Was So Special About John Hancock’s Signature?

American historians are known for their ability to find healthy debate in literally any historical topic, so it shouldn’t come as any surprise that the somewhat unusual signature of John Hancock raises eyebrows from time to time. Hancock gained even more notoriety after signing the Declaration of Independence first, and his signature certainly seems to have cemented his place in history because it stands out far more than the others. He signed directly under the last line of the document, and his signature is the biggest, boldest, and most centered of the whole bunch. That’s not all.

The laymen might look at the signature and simply conclude: “Oh hey, that one’s bigger than the rest. This guy must have thought highly of himself.” The historians take it one step further than the rest of us. There was no structure on the declaration; you couldn’t just sign on the dotted line and be done with it. If you wanted the moment to matter, you had to be methodical. John Hancock was.

That’s why historians and handwriting analysts have mostly concluded that his signature shows his brazen self-esteem. They believe that Hancock was extroverted, authoritative, and believed himself to be important. They believe he lacked the humility common among other men within the group. The signature achieves other historically contextual goals: because it remains directly below and in the center of the document, it can never go unnoticed. When one thinks of the Declaration of Independence, there are a number of names that come to mind–and a number which do not. John Hancock is one of the former. On top of that, the placement might suggest optimism in the signing.

The signature seems to be well-practiced, nearly impeccable, and calligraphic. All of these aspects imply confidence, perhaps even theatricality. Showmanship may have been important to the man. This is a guy who takes pride in his seat at the table, and he is ultimately confident in the event’s important. Furthermore, his signature is underlined. This is yet another sign of confidence, perhaps even heightened ego.

These are all aspects that normal people could analyze if push comes to shove, but here’s one that’s not: the signature is slanted to the right, which indicates a very specific personality type. These are extroverted individuals. They work to express themselves to others. Unsurprisingly, those who write with a right slant are often innovators. They have bold new ideas and the confidence with which to bring them into the world. Their lives revolve around social gatherings; they are comforted by the presence of friends and family.

Who knew that a signature could say so much to others? Take that to heart the next time you sign an important document!