Alternative History

Behind the Revolution; Of Stars,Stripes….and a cask of wine….Happy 4th of July to these Forgotten American Pioneers

We all know the storybook version of the American Revolution: The courageous George Washington crossing the Delaware- the inspired Jefferson writing the epic Declaration of Independence- the brave Paul Revere telling us “The Red Coats ar Coming.”

Who else had a hand in the founding of the United States? Surely it was not merely the work of our famed Founding Fathers… are a few names from the past that we should all raise our glass to as we celebrate another 4th of July with beer, hotdgogs, pizza and baseball.

The American Revolution was a spectacle of unique vision and devotion- and without the work of those listed below we might still be subjects of the English Crown.

Francis Hopkinson- if you do not know who Francis Hopkinson is by now- shame on you! Hopkinson hailed from a prominent Philadelphia clan closely tied to Benjamin Franklin and was a prolific musician, artist, philosopher and statesman. Long overlooked by historians Hopkinson was a signer of the Declaration of Independence and played a


significant role in the design of the Great Seal of the United States and the first US Flags. Betsy Ross aside, Hopkinson was the only individual to actually claim the credit for the design of the U.S. flag in the 1700s. Hopkinson however was modest to a fault and he years later he facetiously billed Congress for “a quarter cask of the public wine” for his efforts. Although Congress did not outright deny Hopkinson’s claim they failed to act on it for years. Only after Hopkinson rebilled his claim for cash, ‘along with other claims for other emblems’, did Congress act on it, denying it on the grounds that Hopkinson was not the only person who had a hand in designing the flag ‘and other emblems’. Ouch! Is that any way to treat an original American patriot??

Hopkinson was very much caught up in the spirit of the American Revolution and in addition to his work on the Great Seal he designed seals for the Board of Admiralty (the Navy), the Treasury Board (for Continental currency) and was a prominent member of the Amercian Philosophical Society.
Stephen Moylan
– Another Philadelphian, Stephen Moylan was born in Cork, Ireland and educated in Lisbon, Portugal. After settling in America in 1768 as a shipping magnate Moylan gravitated into Washington’s circle, being appointed him Muster-Master General in 1775 ( Moylan became a powerful force in the revolutionary movement- one of the first to advocate total seperation from the UK. Proud of his Irish roots Moylan was part of the Friendly Sons of St.Patrick, a group who played a significant role in aiding the American Revolution financially and militarily. But perhaps Moylan’s most lasting contribution lies in a simple phrase: he coined the term ‘the United States of America’ in a letter in January 1776. (

Thomas Barclay  – Barclay was a rock star diplomat during the revolutionary era and in the years that followed. At the behest of Jefferson Barclay undertook a difficult task of negotiating with the Barbary Sultans of Morocco in 1786. Barclay’s treaty is seen as one of the first diplomatic successes in US history. The treaty was ratified by Congress in July 1787. How strong was Barclay’s treaty……well as late as 1967 a standing United States Department of State official observed that, “the basic provisions of the 1787 treaty [have] never been broken, making this the longest unbroken treaty relationship in United States history.”

Incidently Barclay, like Moylan, was a successful Irish born Philadelphian merchant. He would also be the first US diplomat to die overseas- dying in Paris in 1793 while on an assignment for President Washington. Intriguing……

speaking of rack stars…how about Benjamin Bannekerthis Baltimore native was one of the countries first astronomers, mathematicians, scientists, surveyors and almanac authors. Bannekers is also credited with inventing the first workable clock in America in 1761. Banneker played an important role in surveying the land that became Washington DC and began publishing a detailed ephemeris in the 1790s. A free black in the bitter era of slavery Banneker even exchanged his views with Thomas Jefferson in a series of letters, being bold enough to chastise the Founding Father for his hypocrisy in still being a slave holder.

Charles ThomsonThe Secretary to Congress during the American Revolution Thomson was a prolific revolutionary figure- signing the original Declaration of Independence and eventually designing the final version of the Great Seal of the United States with William Barton  Thomson was a meticulous chronicler of this early era of American history and was a valued elder statesman in the decades following the revolution, dying at an advanced age in 1824.