Speaking of “writing history,” The Declaration of Independence is the perfect subject for this week. The Committee of Five or the brain trust of John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Robert Livingston, and Roger Sherman formulated the concepts. The wording was Jeffersonian. And the final draft written by Thomas Jefferson was engrossed by the famous penman, Timothy Matlack.
Timothy Matlack was a lively character. He was a Quaker with an entrepreneurial spirit. After a failed business, two stays in the debtors’ prison, he ventured into brewing and bottling beer. He was a “sword toting patriot” who was politically active both in the Pennsylvania legislature and in both Continental Congresses. In the Congress, Matlack served as an assistant secretary and clerk to engross official documents. For this reason, historians believe that the Declaration of Independence was penned by…
“Handwriting in the colonial period was heavily influenced by Europe, in particular England. Indeed, examining the script used by Matlack in the Declaration of Independence one can easily see these influences. In particular, his use of English roundhand script stands out. This form of script was executed with a feather quill pen and was actually a form of handwriting. The script is known as Copperplate.” – Dr. Joseph M. Vitolo
The Declaration of Independence script
Several months after the Declaration had gathered all 56 signatures for ratification, Timothy Matlack became a colonel in the Pennsylvania militia. His 5th Rifle Battalion fought bravely through the winter of 1776. Later, Matlack served under Benedict Arnold, despising the man. He was instrumental in exposing Arnold’s wrongdoings, and a court martial followed.
As someone who was adept with both the pen and the sword, Colonel Matlack went on to leave his mark on many endeavors in the early days of Pennsylvania’s statehood.
The History of Penmanship https://www.calligraphersguild.org/penmen.html
Dr. Joseph M. Vitolo, Promoting the Art, History & Techniques of American Penmanship http://www.zanerian.com
Wikipedia, “Timothy Matlack”, “Declaration of Independence”
Portrait of Timothy Matlack by Rembrandt Peale 1802