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John Morton of Chester County: A Signer of the American Declaration of Independence (Virtual)

July 1 @ 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm

About this talk:

In 1776, John Morton (1725-1777) of Ridley Township (then Chester County) was one of 56 men who audaciously signed his name to a radical declaration proclaiming the thirteen American colonies free and independent from the British Empire. It was a treasonous act punishable by death—a dramatic about-face for a man who had a history of being a political moderate often seeking compromise. It was a decision he did not make lightly. One famous myth even suggests this decision caused Morton great distress and ultimately led to his death in April 1777—becoming the first signer of the Declaration of Independence to die. Morton’s vote for independence certainly did not go unpunished, for when the British Army advanced across Chester County in the Fall of 1777 en route to capture Philadelphia, crown forces plundered his Ridley Township estate—an event likely responsible for the loss of Morton’s personal papers and correspondence. Nearly 250 years after his death, historians have few primary sources available to study this man who held many prominent positions in colonial Pennsylvania ranging from Justice of the Peace to Speaker of the Pennsylvania Assembly.

Join local historian and researcher John E. Smith III for a presentation about Morton’s life and legacy. John will highlight Morton’s Finnish ancestry, childhood upbringing, civic career, political positions, and legacy. As we prepare to celebrate America’s 250th anniversary and reflect on all things related to the Revolution, join us for an opportunity to learn more about this forgotten Founding Father and Chester County native.

About the Speaker: John E. Smith III is a public historian, researcher, and archivist who holds a bachelor’s degree in history from West Chester University and a master’s degree in public history from Temple University. Between 2018 and 2023, John was an archivist at the Chester County Archives where he preserved the historic records of the Chester County Government, assisted researchers in the public research room, and developed educational content and programming.

Register here for this pay-as-you-wish event

Admission: Pay as You Wish! Your donation is greatly appreciated. All proceeds benefit the development of future programming and the preservation of the History Center and its collections. The History Center is home to over 750,000 manuscripts, 100,000 photographs, and 70,000 artifacts. Your donation helps us to preserve and share those resources.

Presentation is via Zoom, and will be recorded and available for 7 days for all registered participants. We will email out a Zoom link the day of the presentation, and email a link to the recording within 24 hours. Note: the Zoom link emailed out the day of the presentation only takes you to the live presentation; the link emailed out the day after will contain the recorded version.

This program is made possible with support from The Haverford Trust Company.


July 1
7:00 pm - 8:00 pm
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