Patriot “John Nixon” on July 8, 1776 Made the First Public Proclamation Reading of The Declaration of Independence
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Brigadier General JOHN NIXON (1733-1808). On July 8, 1776 Patriot John Nixon made the very First Public Proclamation Reading of the Declaration of Independence, read from the steps of the Pennsylvania State House, General George Washington’s Aide-de-Camp; Financier and Official Director of of the Bank of North America of Philadelphia, who served as a Militia Officer in the American Revolutionary War, and Chairman of the Committee of Safety.
September 13, 1777-Dated Revolutionary War Period, Manuscript Document Clipped Signature from an “Oath Acknowledgment” with Signature, Sworn Oath Signed, “Jno Nixon Brg” (Brigadier General). This partial clipped document measuring 7.75” long x 1” high, tipped to 7.75” x 2.75” larger card stock from prior display, overall Fine condition. Its bold deep brown and easily readable hand-penned text is written by John Nixon’s own hand, on light tan period laid paper. There is a small fold split at the bottom edge between first and last name, with the signature clear, measuring a large 2.25” long. This partial Oath acknowledgment reads, in full:
“Sworn be fore me this 13th Day of Sept 1777 -- (Signed) “Jno. Nixon Brg”. A rarely encountered, most important and historic signature of this popular American Patriot soldier and General George Washington’s Aide-de-Camp, who is noted in most American history books. John Nixon was born the son of Sarah Bowles and Richard Nixon, a prominent Philadelphia shipping merchant and owner of Nixon’s Wharf on the Delaware River. After being educated in the business rather than in a formal school setting, Nixon inherited his father’s shipping and mercantile business in 1749.
He soon became involved in public affairs, chosen a lieutenant of the Dock Ward Company in 1756, a warden of the port in 1766, one of the signers of paper money issued by Pennsylvania in 1767, and a manager of Pennsylvania Hospital, 1768-1772. In 1765 he married Elizabeth Davis; together they had five children.
During early conflicts with the mother country, Nixon was an ardent proponent of the colonies. He signed the Non-Importation Agreement in 1765 and actively opposed the Stamp Act. When the Revolutionary War began, he joined the Committee of Safety, often acting as its chairman.
As a lieutenant-colonel in the Third Battalion of Associators (a unit comprised of wealthy “Silk Stockings”), Nixon saw military action at the Battles of Trenton and Princeton. He commanded the defenses of the Delaware at Fort Island and the Philadelphia city guard. Nixon, however, is best known as the first person to publicly read the Declaration of Independence, which he did from the steps of the State House on July 8, 1776.
In 1789 Nixon was one of the organizers and a Director of the Bank of Pennsylvania, organized to supply the United States army with provisions and supplies. In 1784 he became a director of of the Bank of North America, the first national bank, serving as its president from 1792 until his death in 1808.
In later years, Nixon served as a trustee of the College and Academy of Philadelphia, from 1789 until the 1791 union of the College with the University of the State of Pennsylvania to form the University of Pennsylvania.