Francis Hopkinson

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Founding Fathers
Francis Hopkinson
State New Jersey
Religion Christian- Episcopalian [1]
Founding Documents Declaration of Independence

Francis Hopkinson (September 21, 1737 – May 9, 1791) is a Founding Father of America. He was the first Graduate of the College of Philadelphia, a friend of Benjamin Franklin, a lawyer, a writer of poetry, music, and satire. Hopkinson designed the first paper currency, first coin,[2] and claimed credit for designing the American flag. He was a delegate from New Jersey to the Continental Congress that signed the Declaration of Independence. Hopkinson was commissioned a Judge of Admiralty in Pennsylvania and President Washington appointed him Federal District Judge.

Early life

Francis Hopkinson was born in Philadelphia to a wealthy family. His father Thomas was a lawyer and his mother Mary Johnson was the niece of the Bishop of Worcester, England.[3] At age thirteen, his father died. Mrs. Hopkinson sought to give Francis the best education and family friend Ben Franklin would be a big help.[4] Ben Franklin was there for him through his years at the College of Philadelphia. After graduation Francis traveled to England and continued his education, a two-year study with the Bishop of Worcester. His family connections in England landed him the title collector of customs at Salem, New Jersey and customs at New Castle, Delaware. He would marry the wealthy Ann Borden of New Jersey, whose family had founded Bordentown. Hopkinson would prosper as a lawyer and was appointed to the prestigious provincial council.

Francis Hopkinson started writing satires against British oppression of the colonies. He is considered by many to be the first American composer,[5] and played the organ at Christ Church, Philadelphia where he attended service.


At the time of the American Revolution, Hopkinson was elected to the Second Continental Congress just in time to sign the Declaration. Hessian militants attacked his residence and the family fled. They ransacked his house and plundered his possessions. In 1779, he was appointed the judge of the admiralty court of Pennsylvania,[6] a position he held for ten years. Hopkinson was an active advocate for the new federal constitution. After the Constitution was adopted, George Washington had appointed Hopkinson Judge of the United States, for the district of Pennsylvania in 1790.

Hopkinson was involved with the design of the American Flag, however there is some controversy as to his role and the design. No sketch of his design is believed to exist, but many believe the Hopkinson Flag to have had 13 stripes and a blue canton with 13 stars; the stars showing 6 points instead of the more common five. Several letters of correspondence to and from Hopkinson contain his request for compensation of the design.[7]


In 1791, Hopkinson had an epileptic seizure and died at the age of fifty-three.

Music and Writings

  • "A Pretty Story" a skeptical examination of the relationship between Great Britain and the colonies.
  • "Battle of the Kegs" a satiric taunting of the British.
  • "The Prophecy" an allegory that likened royal government to a certain tree, planted by the king in America.
  • "My Days Have Been So Wondrous Free"
  • "Temple of Minerva"
  • "The Toast" (A tribute to George Washington)
  • "Seven Songs for the Harpsichord"


  2. 14 Fun Facts About the U. S. Flag: A 15-Minute Book
  3. Encyclopedia of the American Enlightenment
  4. Francis Hopkinson,
  5. American Organ Quarterly, Volume 2
  6. Francis Hopkinson,
  7. Flag: An American Biography

External links