1776 - Declaration of Independance

America's birth certificate

The Declaration of Independence of 1776 has been called the birth certificate of the United States. Three of its 56 signatories as well as the man who produced the first printed version had been born in Ulster. A number of others had Ulster connections, notably Thomas McKean, whose father was from the Ballymoney area of County Antrim.

Printer of the Declaration

The Declaration of Independence was printed in Philadelphia by John Dunlap from Strabane, County Tyrone. As a boy, he was sent to Pennsylvania to work as an apprentice printer to his uncle, and later took over the business. Dunlap founded the Pennsylvania Packet in 1771, which later became the first daily newspaper of note in America. A very wealthy man, he owned nearly 100,000 acres in several states.

The three Ulster-born signatories

James Smith

James Smith a youth, James Smith emigrated with his family to Pennsylvania. Taught by Rev. Francis Alison, he entered the legal profession. Smith was a Pennsylvania delegate at the Continental Congress. In 1785, he was re-elected to Congress, but declined on account of his age. 

George Taylor

George Taylor is said to have run away to America as a young man. He became a successful iron-founder in Pennsylvania. In July 1776, he agreed to represent Pennsylvania on the Continental Congress, replacing a delegate who was opposed to the Declaration of Independence. 

Matthew Thornton

Matthew Thornton emigrated to America as a young boy. He was active in local politics in New Hampshire and represented the colony on the Continental Congress. He was not present at the original signing of the Declaration of Independence, but was allowed to add his name later.