On the Button... Church finds 'six figure' US Declaration signer's autograph

Any serious collector of, or investor in, autographs will be very familiar with the name of Button Gwinnett - a signer of the Declaration of Independence.

Gwinnett owned a plantation in Georgia, and was elected to the Provincial Assembly there, later becoming a strong supporter of colonial rights. He voted in favor of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, and signed the famous parchment copy on August 2, 1776.

He did not have long to live however. He became Governor of Georgia for just two months in 1777, taking on the role following the death of the incumbent. He planned a disastrous attack on British East Florida which was carried out by his bitter rival Lachlan McIntosh.

McIntosh publicly denounced Gwinnett as responsible for the failure and Gwinnett was so incensed that he challenged McIntosh to a duel. Both men were injured with Gwinnett dying within days.

Button Gwinnett manuscript
Button Gwinnett manuscript, sold at Sotheby's

Partly as a result, Gwinnett has the rarest signature of all the signers of the Declaration of Independence, and his autograph is extremely valuable with a document he signed on July 12, 1776 from the James Copley collection selling for $722,500 last year (albeit accompanied by other more common signers of the Declaration).

American autograph collectors often dream of bringing together a set of all 56 signers of the Declaration and many are prepared to dig very deep in order to achieve it.

However, Gwinnett was not born in America.

He spent his early days in Gloucester, England, then moved to Wolverhampton where he married a local girl and stayed for several years before setting sail for America, and it is Wolverhampton which has found itself blessed by an example of his signature.

It relates to his wedding: Gwinnett signed the parish register at St Peter's church in the city in 1757.

The church has placed the document in a bank vault, but has not yet announced any plans to sell it. Autograph collectors will be waiting with baited breath.


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