|From The literary history of Philadelphia (1906).|
|Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Pennsylvania|
September 26, 1789 – May 9, 1791
|Nominated by||George Washington|
|Succeeded by||William Lewis|
|Delegate from New Jersey to the Second Continental Congress|
June 22, 1776 – November 30, 1776
|Born||October 2, 1737
|Died||May 9, 1791
|Resting place||Christ Church Burial Ground|
|Alma mater||The Academy and College of Philadelphia|
Francis Hopkinson (September 21, 1737 – May 9, 1791), an American author, was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence as a delegate from New Jersey. He later served as a federal judge in Pennsylvania. He played a key role in the design of the first American flag.
Education and public life
Francis Hopkinson was born at Philadelphia in 1737, the son of Thomas Hopkinson and Mary Johnson. He became a member of the first class at the College of Philadelphia (now the University of Pennsylvania) in 1751 and graduated in 1757, receiving his masters degree in 1760, and a doctor in law (honorary) in 1790. He was secretary to a Provincial Council of Pennsylvania Indian commission in 1761 that made a treaty with the Delaware and several Iroquois tribes. In 1763, he was appointed customs collector for Salem, New Jersey. Hopkinson spent from May 1766 to August 1767 in England in hopes of becoming commissioner of customs for North America. Although unsuccessful, he spent time with the future Prime Minister Lord North and his half-brother, the Bishop of Worcester Brownlow North, and painter Benjamin West.
After his return, Francis Hopkinson operated a dry goods business in Philadelphia and married Ann Borden on September 1, 1768. They would have five children. Hopkinson obtained a public appointment as a customs collector for New Castle, Delaware on May 1, 1772. He moved to Bordentown, New Jersey in 1774, became a member of the New Jersey Provincial Council, and was admitted to the New Jersey bar on May 8, 1775. He resigned his crown-appointed positions in 1776 and, on June 22, went on to represent New Jersey in the Second Continental Congress where he signed the Declaration of Independence. He departed the Congress on November 30, 1776 to serve on the Navy Board at Philadelphia. As part of the fledgling nation's government, he was treasurer of the Continental Loan Office in 1778; appointed judge of the Admiralty Court of Pennsylvania in 1779 and reappointed in 1780 and 1787; and helped ratify the Constitution during the constitutional convention in 1787. On September 24, 1789, he was nominated by President George Washington to the newly created position of judge of the United States District Court for the District of Pennsylvania. He was confirmed by the United States Senate, and received his commission, on September 26, 1789.
Only a few years into his service as a federal judge, Hopkinson died in Philadelphia at the age of 53 from a sudden epileptic seizure. He was buried in Christ Church Burial Ground in Philadelphia. He was the father of Joseph Hopkinson, who was a member of the United States House of Representatives and also became a federal judge. Hopkinson was the designer of the American Flag. He did not get his due in life. At one point, he asked only for a bottle of wine for his efforts, which he never received. So every year on his birthday, the workers at Christ Church take a bottle of wine to his grave-site and share it to remember his contribution.
Hopkinson was an amateur author and songwriter at a time when Philadelphia and the colonies were not well known for the arts. He wrote popular airs and political satires (jeux d'esprit) in the form of poems and pamphlets. Some were widely circulated, and powerfully assisted in arousing and fostering the spirit of political independence that issued in the American Revolution.
His principal writings are A Pretty Story . . . (1774), a satire about King George, The Prophecy (1776), and The Political Catechism (1777). Other notable essays are "Typographical Method of conducting a Quarrel", "Essay on White Washing", and "Modern Learning". Many of his writings can be found in Miscellaneous Essays and Occasional Writings, published at Philadelphia in three volumes in 1792 (see Bibliography).
Hopkinson was a reputed amateur musician. He began to play the harpsichord at age seventeen and, during the 1750s, hand-copied arias, songs, and instrumental pieces by many European composers. He is credited as being the first American born composer to commit a composition to paper with his 1759 composition "My Days Have Been So Wondrous Free." By the 1760s he was good enough on the harpsichord to play with professional musicians in concerts. Some of his more notable songs include "The Treaty", "The Battle of the Kegs", and "The New Roof, a song for Federal Mechanics". He also played organ at Philadelphia's Christ Church and composed or edited a number of hymns and psalms including: "A Collection of Psalm Tunes with a few Anthems and Hymns Some of them Entirely New, for the Use of the United Churches of Christ Church and St. Peter's Church in Philadelphia" (1763), "A psalm of thanksgiving, Adapted to the Solemnity of Easter: To be performed on Sunday, the 30th of March, 1766, at Christ Church, Philadelphia" (1766), and "The Psalms of David, with the Ten Commandments, Creed, Lord's Prayer, &c. in Metre" (1767). In the 1780s, Hopkinson modified a glass harmonica to be played with a keyboard and invented the Bellarmonic, an instrument that utilized the tones of metal balls. In 1788 he published a collection of 8 songs dedicated to his friend George Washington and his daughter called "Seven Songs for the Harpsichord" and voice.
- The Miscellaneous Essays and Occasional Writings of Francis Hopkinson, Esq Printed by T. Dobson, 1792. Available via Google Books: Volume I, Volume II, Volume III
- Judgments in the Admiralty of Pennsylvania in four suits Printed at T. Dobson and T. Lang, 1789. Available via Google Books
- A Pretty Story Written in the Year of Our Lord 1774. Printed by John Dunlap, 1774. Available via Google Books
- Collection of Plain Tunes with a Few from Anthems and Hymns. Printed by Benjamin Carr, 1763.
- Temple of Minerva. (The First American Opera) Printed by Benjamin Carr, 1781.
- Seven Songs for the Harpsichord or Forte Piano. Printed by T. Dobson, 1788.
Hopkinson claimed to have designed the official "first flag" of the United States and sought compensation from Congress. Congress refused on the pretext that many people were involved in the flag's design, and that Hopkinson was already paid as a public servant. Another consideration was that the Flag Resolution of 1777, which defined official United States flags, did not specify the arrangement of stars. Many designs were in use that complied with the flag resolution, with stars arranged in a square, a wreath, rows, patterns, or the familiar "Betsy Ross" circle.
The design of the first Stars and Stripes by Hopkinson had the thirteen stars arranged in a "staggered" pattern technically known as quincuncial because it is based on the repetition of a motif of five units. This arrangement inevitably results in a strongly diagonal effect. In a flag of thirteen stars, this placement produced the unmistakable outline of the crosses of St. George and of St. Andrew, as used together on the British flag. Whether this similarity was intentional or accidental, it may explain why the plainer fashion of placing the stars in three parallel rows was preferred by many Americans over the quincuncial style.
Hopkinson's letter and response
On May 25, 1780, Hopkinson wrote a letter to the Continental Board of Admiralty mentioning several patriotic designs he had completed during the previous three years. One was his Board of Admiralty seal, which contained a red-and-white striped shield on a blue field. Others included the Treasury Board seal, “7 devices for the Continental Currency,” and “the Flag of the United States of America.”
In the letter, Hopkinson noted that he hadn’t asked for any compensation for the designs, but was now looking for a reward: “a Quarter Cask of the public Wine.” The board sent that letter on to Congress. Hopkinson submitted another bill on June 24 for his “drawings and devices.” The first item on the list was “The Naval Flag of the United States.” The price listed was 9 pounds.
The Treasury Board turned down the request in an October 27, 1780, report to Congress. The Board cited several reasons for its action, including the fact that Hopkinson “was not the only person consulted on those exhibitions of Fancy, and therefore cannot claim the sole merit of them and not entitled to the full sum charged.”
Hopkinson’s itemized bill, moreover, is the only contemporary claim that exists for creating the American flag. Although no "Hopkinson flags" exist from the time period, it is believed that his flag contained 13 red and white stripes and 13 white stars arranged symmetrically on a field of blue.
Great Seal of the United States
Francis Hopkinson provided assistance to the second committee that designed the Great Seal of the United States. This seal is now impressed upon the reverse of the United States one-dollar bill. The seal, designed by William Barton, contains an unfinished pyramid with a radiant eye, an image used by Hopkinson when he designed the continental $50 currency.,
- Francis Hopkinson House, listed on the National Register of Historic Places in Burlington County, New Jersey
- Christ Church staff member and burial grounds guide
- Charles Wells Moulton, ed. (1902). The Library of Literary Criticism of English and American Authors: 1785–1824. Buffalo, NY: The Moulton Publishing Company. p. 131.
- Francis Hopkinson biography at the Library of Congress Performing Arts Digital Library
- Pennsylvania Center for the Book on Hopkinson and his writings
- "Seven Songs for the Harpsichord or Forte Piano". Early American Secular Music and its European Sources, 1589–1839. Retrieved 2009-05-05.
- Buescher, John. "All Wrapped up in the Flag", Teachinghistory.org, accessed August 21, 2011.
- Mastai, pg. 49
- Znamierowski says Hopkinson also used 5-pointed stars. Pg 113.
- Leepson, Marc; DeMille, Nelson. Flag: An American Biography. St. Martin's Griffin. p. 33. ISBN 978-0-312-32309-7.
- Journals of the Continental Congress – Friday, October 27, 1780
- Univ. of Notre Dame, Coin and Currency Collections
- Hopkinson holdings at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania Online Public Access Catalog.
- Mastai, Bolesław; Mastai, Marie-Louise d'Otrange. The Stars and the Stripes; the American flag as art and as history from the birth of the Republic to the present. New York, Knopf, 1973. ISBN 0-394-47217-9.
- Znamierowski, Alfred. The World Encyclopedia of Flags. Hermes House. ISBN 1-84309-042-2.
- Francis Hopkinson at the Biographical Directory of Federal Judges, a public domain publication of the Federal Judicial Center.
- University of Penn. Archives on Hopkinson
- The Hopkinson Family Papers, including correspondence, documents and printed materials, are available for research use at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
- Pennsylvania Center for the Book on Hopkinson and his writings
- Library of Congress on Hopkinson
- Works by or about Francis Hopkinson in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
- Francis Hopkinson: Jurist, Wit, and Dilettante Marble, Annie Russell. Heralds of American Literature: A Group of Patriot Writers of the Revolutionary and National Periods. 1907, University of Chicago Press, hosted by Google Book Search
- image of stamp with Hopkinson's flag, stars in a circle, from the University of Georgia
- Songs by Francis Hopkinson
- Free scores by Francis Hopkinson at the International Music Score Library Project
- "AN ACCOUNT OF THE GRAND FEDERAL PROCESSION. PERFORMED AT PHILADELPHIA ON FRIDAY THE 4TH OF JULY 1788" by Francis Hopkinson - Hopkinson's review of a Philadelphia 4th of July parade of 1788; celebrating the ratification of the U.S. Constitution.
Newly created seat
|Judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Pennsylvania
September 26, 1789 – May 9, 1791