How Many People Actually Signed the Constitution?

It's possible that the U.S. Constitution has never been referenced more in news articles, TV programs, everyday discourse, and water cooler conversation than it is today. Yet many likely don't even know how many people signed the Constitution, the living document, constantly being interpreted, that established the federal government, its branches, and governs the people of the United States.

The U.S. Constitution put in writing how the government of the United States should operate. Read on to find out who signed it.

How many people signed the Constitution?

You probably think this number would be much higher, considering the magnitude of the Constitution then and now, but the answer to the question “how many people signed the Constitution” is 39. That’s right, only 39 men (and they were all white men and property owners at that) actually signed the most famous legal document in the world. Most people believe there were more signers and most Americans probably also believe these 10 myths about the Constitution.

Why did only 39 people sign the Constitution?

Seventy men, many of whom had fought in the American Revolution and about three-fourths of whom had served in Congress, chosen by their states attended the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. “The initial purpose of the convention was to amend the Articles of Confederation,” according to ConstitutionFacts.com. Rhode Island opted to not send any delegates. Strangely, despite a total of 70 attendees, only 55 delegates attended the majority of Constitutional Convention meetings and there was never more than 46 present at any one time. The convention culminated with the signing of the document on September 17, 1787.

Only two presidents signed the Constitution

The Constitution established the office of The President of the United States but of the 39 signers, only two were or would eventually serve as president. George Washington, the first, was president at the time of the signing, while James Madison would go on to serve as the fourth president of the United State. President Madison, considered the Father of the U.S. Constitution, was the only delegate to attend every meeting. ConstitutionFacts.com goes on to note that, “The journal that he [Madison] kept during the Constitutional Convention was kept secret until after he died. It (along with other papers) was purchased by the government in 1837 at a price of $30,000 (that would be $695,000 today).” Madison’s convention journal was finally published in 1840.

This state had the most signers of the Constitution

You might think that Virginia or New York had the most delegates sign the Constitution but 20 percent of the signers (eight of the 39) were from the state of Pennsylvania! Interestingly, while the small state of Delaware might seem rather insignificant to some today, Delaware had the second most delegates (five) sign the U.S. Constitution and it became the very first state when all 30 delegates of the Delaware Constitutional Convention unanimously ratified the U.S. Constitution on December 7, 1787. Delaware is rightly called The First State, but do you know the nicknames for all 50 States?

Pennsylvania has always been difficult to spell

The struggle was real in the age before spellcheck as even the eight delegates from Pennsylvania didn’t add their state’s name to their signatures. Per ConstituionFacts.com, “Of the spelling errors in the Constitution, ‘Pensylvania’ above the signers’ names is probably the most glaring.” If you look at the Constitution you might also think the Founding Fathers had trouble sorting out their F’s from their S’s.

Did Alexander Hamilton sign the Constitution?

He sure did! In fact, he was the only delegate from New York to put his name on the U.S. Constitution. Hamilton also lobbied hard for the Constitution through his Federalist Papers, seen as propaganda advocating for a stronger federal government. The reasons why the U.S. Capital is in Washington D.C. and why the District isn’t a state were also a part of the Constitutional Convention.

Famous Americans who didn’t sign the Constitution

Curiously, one of the most famous founding fathers’ signature is missing from the Constitution. Thomas Jefferson did not sign the Constitution. That’s because the future third President was in France serving as U.S. minister. Jefferson, however, wasn’t the only famous name absent from the 1787 Constitutional Convention as, John Adams, our future second President was in Great Britain serving as the U.S. minister.

Did anyone sign both the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence?

Only six men signed both the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and the Constitution 11 years later: George Clymer, Benjamin Franklin, Robert Morris, George Read, Roger Sherman, and James Wilson. This is why hate speech is protected under the U.S. Constitution. 

Diversity of age, if not gender or color

While there was no diversity of color or gender, as only white men were delegates at the 1787 Constitutional Convention, there was a wide disparity in the age of the attendees. Benjamin Franklin was 81 at the time he signed the Constitution, and needed assistance in doing so, while the youngest delegate to put his John Hancock on the U.S. Constitution was New Jersey’s Jonathan Dayton, age 26. The average age was 42. Read on to test your knowledge of the U.S. Constitution.

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Jeff Bogle
Jeff Bogle is an Iris Award-winning photographer, avid traveler, and English football fanatic who regularly covers travel, culture, cars, health, business, the environment, and more for Reader's Digest. Jeff has also written for Parents Magazine, Esquire, PBS, and Good Housekeeping, among other publications. He is the proud dad of teen daughters. You can follow his adventures on Instagram and Twitter @OWTK.