New Castle, Delaware
Community History and Archaeology Program 
Francis Hopkinson

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Francis Hopkinson   (1737-1791)

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Title/Occupation Signer of the Declaration of Independence (for NJ).
Customs collector, New Castle, 1772
ArtistRobert Edge Pine
Date painted
CreditU. Penn Archives
MarriedAnn Borden (1768)
ParentsThomas Hopkinson
Children(5) including Joseph


Painting at Portrait Gallery

The engraving shown here is by an unknown artist after the original by Robert Edge Pine. Another copy of a portion of this painting by an unidentified artist, possibly Charles Willson Peale or Samuel F. DuBois is in the Peale Collection in the Portrait Gallery at the Second Bank -- Independence National Historical Park.

Hopkinson may or may not have lived in New Castle. He did become customs collector of the port of New Castle in 1772. That does not prove he resided here. Earlier, in 1763, while still living in Phladelphia, he was customs collector for Salem, New Jersey. We can get an idea of how busy New Castle, Salem and Philadelphia were during the pre-revolutionary period since the "American Board of Customs Commissioners" kept records for 41 ports in North America from 1768 to 1773. The records included imports, exports, numbers and type of ships.

New Castle was an active port in 1772 though its activity was dwarfed by Philadelphia. But it was active. In 1772, as an example it shipped more shingles in coastwise trade than any of the other 41 North American ports.

Hopinson was not the only Signer with actual or desired customs experience. According to Cooper George Read attempted to get the position in New Castle in 1766 but did not succeed. Cooper states that Thomas McKean was appointed in 1771, with no mention of Hopkinson.

Evidence that suggests Hopkinson lived in New Castle is contained in a poem he wrote in 1772, titled To T[homas] M[cKean], Esq. in which he describes his trip to court in Chester leaving Newcastle early in the morning with his brother-in-law, the attorney.

In addition to being a lawyer and politician, he composed songs, the "first national anthem" , poems and political propaganda ballads such as "The Battle of the Kegs"


Archive.org "The miscellaneous essays and occasional writings of Francis Hopkinson, Esq. (1792) Vol III"

"Life and Works of Francis Hopkinson", George E. Hastings, 1926

Jim Meek
nc-chap.org 2014, 2015