His John Hancock is rarer than John Hancock’s.
Born in England in 1735, Button Gwinnett came to Savannah 30 years later. He bought St. Catherine’s Island and became a planter. In 1776 he was elected commander of Georgia’s Continental Army Battalion during the American Revolution. When political opponents- including Lachlan McIntosh- challenged his election, he stepped aside to serve in the Continental Congress instead. He signed the Declaration of Independence with fellow Georgians George Walton and Lyman Hall in Philadelphia, then returned to Georgia to become president of the Revolutionary Council of Safety. Gwinnett became embroiled in a bitter political dispute with McIntosh. It began when Gwinnett arrested McIntosh’s brother for treason. It ended on what was euphemistically called the field of honor, in a duel with pistols. Though each man hit his target, Gwinnett’s wound was fatal.
Among the Declaration’s signers, Gwinnett’s signature is the rarest. One fetched $722,500 in 2010. Gwinnett and McIntosh fought Georgia’s most famous duel on May 16, 1777, Today in Georgia History.
Today in Georgia History is a joint collaboration of the Georgia Historical Society & Georgia Public Broadcasting.