Chronological events in the life of John Hancock


January 23: John Hancock was born in Braintree, Massachusetts, present day the City of Quincy. His parents were Reverent John Hancock and Mary Hawke Thaxter. See biography.


His father, John Hancock, died. Young John moved with his paternal uncle Thomas Hancock and his wife Lydia Henchman. He was eventually adopted by the childless couple and raised as their own son.


Hancock graduated from the Boston Latin School where the sons of the Boston elite got their education. The school had prominent Bostonians as its alumni. The BLS is the oldest existing school in the United States.

Hancock’s first year in Harvard College.


Graduated from Harvard College with a bachelor’s degree.


Worked for his uncle in the House of Hancock as an apprentice.


Lived in England where he furthered his studies in commerce and forged relationships with his uncle’s business partners.


Moved back to Massachusetts where he slowly took over the family business, The House of Hancock, as Tomas Hancock’s health deteriorated.


Became full partner in The House of Hancock.


Thomas Hancock died and John inherited the business, properties and thousands of acres of land. At age 27 he was one of the richest men in Massachusetts.


The start of Hancock\’s political career, he was elected as Boston selectman.

The Stamp Act met resistance in the colonies.

Samuel Adams and John Hancock became friends.


Took active role in the repeal of the Stamp Act by participating in the boycott of British goods.

Hancock was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives and served until 1772.


Parliament approved the Townshend Acts.

Hancock participated in the boycott of British goods organized by the Sons of Liberty.

His sloop Liberty was seized by customs officers on suspicion of smuggling. Hancock was fined £9,000 and retained John Adams as his counsel.

After the Liberty affair his political career changed dramatically. He started supporting the extremist position of the Sons of Liberty.


Boston Massacre. As a member of the Massachusetts House of Representative Hancock met with Thomas Hutchinson and demanded the troops removed to Castle Williams. His success made him a popular hero and the following year was elected to the General Court.


Elected to the Massachusetts General Court and served until 1774.


Selected Treasurer of Harvard College.


Elected as President of the Massachusetts Provincial Congress.

During the fourth anniversary of the Boston Massacre, John Hancock gave a speech known as the Boston Massacre Oration.


Member of the Second Continental Congress.

May: Unanimously elected President of the Second Continental Congress.

August 28: Married Dorothy Quincy.

Closed the House of Hancock.


First Major General of the Massachusetts Militia.

John and Dorothy had their first child, Lydia, who died as an infant.


First signer of the Declaration of Independence.


The couple had a second child who they named John Hancock.

Led 6,000 soldiers in the Battle of Newport and failed to command his troops. End of military career.


President of the Massachusetts Constitutional Convention that ratified the Massachusetts Constitution.


Elected first Governor of the State of Massachusetts with more than 90% of the popular vote.


Affected by gout, an inflammatory disease that affects the joints.


Shay’s rebellion


John Hancock’s son died from a head injury.


Re elected as Governor of the State of Massachusetts.


Run for first presidential election with George Washington and John Adams. Hancock received a disappointing four electoral votes. Washington was elected the first president of the United States and John Adams Vice President.


October 8: Died at age 56. He was survived by his wife Dorothy.

His funeral was organized by his longtime friend Samuel Adams. John Hancock is buried at Boston’s Granary Burying Ground.


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Other timelines

Timeline of the life of Frederick Douglass

Timeline of the life of John Adams

Timeline of the life of John Quincy Adams