Delegates hailing from all the original states except Rhode Island gathered in the Pennsylvania State House in 1787 to participate in the Constitutional Convention. Many of the delegates had fought in the American Revolution and about three-fourths had served in Congress. The average age was 42.
The delegates named George Washington presiding officer and spent four months, from May to September, behind closed doors, hammering out the framework of a new, more powerful national government. Of the 55 original delegates, only 41 were present on September 17, 1787, to sign the proposed Constitution. Three of those present (George Mason and Edmund Randolph of Virginia and Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts) refused to sign what they considered a flawed document. An ailing John Dickinson of Delaware was unable to attend the Convention’s final session but had fellow delegate George Read sign his name in absence, for a total of 39 signers.
The delegate biographies are excerpted with the generous permission of Carol Berkin, author of A Brilliant Solution: Inventing the American Constitution (Harcourt). Copyright © 2002 by Carol Berkin.
The bronze statue portraits featured on these pages are based on the National Constitution Center Signers' Hall. This exhibit features life-size bronze statutes of 42 men: the 39 delegates who signed the Constitution on September 17, 1787, as well as the three who refused.