Historically Speaking

Making sense of it all!

John Hancock

Posted by Elyse Bruce on August 13, 2010

How often have you heard a salesman say to a customer, “I just need your John Hancock here” as he hands the customer a pen and contract to sign?

The traditional function of a signature is two-fold evidence that can be used in a court of law.  It identifies the document proper — usually a contract of some sort — along with the intention of the people who are signatories of the document.  In fact, the legal definition of signature is “any memorandum, mark, or sign made with intent to authenticate any instrument or writing, or the subscription of any person thereto.”

Interestingly enough, in the John Hancock Building in Chicago, the restaurant on the 95th floor is called The Signature Room on the 95th Floor.

The expression “John Hancock” referring to one’s signature alludes to John Hancock‘s prominent signature — being a much larger, fancier signature than that of other signatories — on the American Declaration of Independence.  By the mid-1800s, it was used interchangeably with the phrase “John Henry.”

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One Response to “John Hancock”

  1. Jo Fraser said

    I have a habit at work, when someone needs to sign their Credit card receipt, I say “I just need your John Hancock here”. I live and work in South Carolina, but spent my first 50+ years in Connecticut. Today, when I said that to a customer, he said: “You must be from up north, because that’s a northern saying, you don’t hear it much down here”. Is it a northern saying? Just curious.

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