George Clymer, signer of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States, was born on March 16, 1739, in Maine or Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and was orphaned when only one year old. He was apprenticed to his maternal aunt and uncle, Hannah and William Coleman, in order to prepare to become a merchant.
Clymer was one of the last of the Patriots to advocate for complete independence from Britain. He was a leader in the demonstrations in Philadelphia caused by the Tea Act and the Stamp Act. He was a member of the Philadelphia Committee of Safety in 1773 and was elected to the Continental Congress (1776-1780) where he shared the responsibility of being the treasurer with Michael Hillegas, the first Treasurer of the United States.
During his first congressional term, Clymer served on several committees. He was among those who were sent to inspect the northern army on behalf of Congress in the fall of 1776. When Sir Henry Clinton and his army threatened to occupy Philadelphia, Congress left town, but Clymer, George Walton, and Robert Morris stayed behind. He resigned from Congress in 1777.
Clymer’s business ventures during the war and afterwards increased his wealth. In 1779 and 1780, he and his son Meredith had a lucrative trade with St. Eustatius. In 1780 he was elected to the Pennsylvania Legislature. In 1782 he had the responsibility of touring the southern states in an attempt to get the various legislatures to pay their debts to the central government. He was re-elected to the Pennsylvania legislature in 1784 and also represented Pennsylvania at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787. He was elected to the first U.S. Congress in 1789.
Being involved in other areas, Clymer was the first president of the Philadelphia Bank and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts as well as vice-president of the Philadelphia Agricultural Society. In 1791 when Congress passed a bill imposing a duty on spirits distilled in the United States, Clymer became the head of the Pennsylvania excise department. He was among the commissioners who negotiated a treaty with the Creek Indian confederacy at Colerain, Georgia, on June 29, 1796. He donated the property for a county seat in Indiana County, Pennsylvania, and is considered a benefactor of said borough.
George Clymer married Elizabeth Meredith on March 22, 1765, and the couple became parents of nine children. Four of their children died in infancy. His oldest surviving son, Henry (born 1767) married Mary Willing Clymer, the Philadelphia socialite, in 1794. Other children who survived to adulthood include John Meredith, Margaret, George, and Ann. John Meredith was killed at 18 years of age in the Whiskey Rebellion in 1787. Their home – Summerseat – still stands in Morrisville, Pennsylvania. David Clymer, the famous rock bassist and trumpet player, is among his descendants.
Clymer died on January 24, 1813, in Morrisville, Pennsylvania and was buried at the Friends Ground in Trenton, New Jersey.
He has the distinction of having the following towns and schools named after him: Clymer, Indiana County, Pennsylvania; Clymer, Chautauqua County, New York; and George Clymer Elementary School in the School District of Philadelphia. The majority of students at this school were children of color – following Clymer’s legacy of rights for all people.