The Declaration of Independence was signed by 56 people. Although John Hancock, the President of the Continental Congress, signed the document on July 4, 1776, most delegates probably added their signatures on August 2, 1776. The last signer added his name on November 4, 1776.
The signing of the Declaration of Independence was a symbolic gesture, since it had already become official through a vote in Congress. John Hancock’s signature was not only the first, but also the largest. It was so iconic that its name became synonymous with the word “signature”. Historians disagree as to whether most delegates signed on July 4 or August 2.
However, some delegates must have signed after July 4 because they joined Congress after the July 4 document was approved. The last person to sign was Matthew Thornton of New Hampshire, who joined the Continental Congress in November 1776 and signed in the lower right corner of the document. The youngest signer was Edward Rutledge at 26 and the oldest Benjamin Franklin at 70.
Not all delegates to the Second Continental Congress signed the Declaration of Independence. Some had voted against, while others were absent when the document was signed.
The first version mailed to the states did not contain all 56 signatures, but on January 18, 1777, Congress ordered that another version containing the signatures be distributed to the 13 states.