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Editorial: A pre-fireworks holiday quiz

True story: We know at least a half dozen people in Concord who make a habit of reading the Declaration of Independence aloud each year on the Fourth of July. We’ve heard it read dramatically, proudly, ironically, incredulously. We’ve heard it read by the glow of the Memorial Field fireworks and amid chomps of barbecued chicken and swigs of beer.

We’re familiar with the words all right, but what about the men behind the words? If you’re sitting on a blanket waiting for the Nevers’ Band concert to commence – or holed up gloomily in the house, escaping the rain – here’s a Declaration of Independence quiz to help you pass the time.

1. One of New Hampshire’s three signers of the Declaration of Independence was William Whipple. Not a bad claim to fame, of course, but his death was even more dramatic. How did he expire?

2. Another of New Hampshire’s signers became famous all over again in the 21st century, thanks to the magic of television. Who was he?

3. New Hampshire’s third signer was also the author of the state’s first constitution – which was also the first new state constitution after the start of hostilities with Great Britain. Who was he?

4. Despite Matthew Thornton’s way with words, the founding fathers didn’t tap his expertise when drafting the Declaration. Why not?

5. Some signers of the Declaration left examples of their signature all over the place – a bonanza for history buffs. Some signatures are more difficult to find. Whose is the most rare?

6. Josiah Bartlett had 12 children – but that didn’t set a record among the signers. Who had more?

7. Which well-known signer was the oldest?

8. The signers were split on the issue of slavery: Some of the Southerners were slave-owners; some signers were adamant opponents. What was William Whipple’s particular connection to the issue?

9. None of New Hampshire’s three signers was actually born in New Hampshire. Where were they from?

10. If you’re looking for something to do on a rainy summer day, there are still three houses in New Hampshire connected with the signers. Two are not open to the public; you’ll need to gaze at them from the outside. Where are they?


1. Whipple, who later became a state superior court justice, suffered from a heart ailment for several years. In 1785, while traveling to court, he fainted from atop his horse and died.

2. Josiah Bartlett was the namesake of President Josiah Bartlett on the long-running NBC drama, West Wing.

3. Matthew Thornton.

4. He didn’t arrive in time.

5. Button Gwinnett, a signer from Georgia. There are just 51 known examples in existence.

6. Thomas Nelson Jr. of Virginia (13 children), Benjamin Rush of Pennsylvania (13), John Hart of New Jersey (13), Roger Sherman of Connecticut (15), William Ellery of New Jersey (16) and Carter Braxton of Virginia (18).

7. Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, age 70.

8. According to the National Park Service, as a sea captain early in his career, he likely carried slaves on his ship.

9. Thornton was born in Ireland, Whipple in Maine, Bartlett in Massachusetts.

10. The Thornton House in Derry was home to Matthew Thornton. (It’s not open to the public.) The Bartlett House in Kingston was built in 1774, and Josiah Bartlett lived in it until his death in 1795. (It too is closed to the public.) The Moffett-Ladd House in Portsmouth was home to Whipple; it is maintained for public display.

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