Born to a Quaker family in Colonial New Jersey in 1730, Timothy Matlack was a merchant, surveyor, architect, statesman, and patriot in the American Revolution. He served as a delegate from Pennsylvania to the Continental Congress in 1780. Matlack was educated at the Quaker Friends School in Philadelphia, where his family relocated in 1745. He married Ellen Yarnall, the daughter of Quaker preacher Mordecai Yarnall. The couple had five children. Ellen died in 1791, at which time Matlack married Elizabeth Claypoole Cooper. No children were born to his second marriage. In 1765, Matlack was ex-communicated by the Philadelphia Religious Society of Friends, or Quakers, for what some believe were his questionable lifestyle and associations with the lower classes of society. Due to their strict code of conduct, it was not at all unusual for any given Quaker, however prominent, to be ex-communicated. Matlack was one of the earliest opponents of slavery and he did not believe the Quakers were doing enough to help put an end to the practice.
When the American Revolution broke out, Matlack was serving as clerk to Charles Thomson, the Secretary of the Continental Congress. As part of his duties, he engrossed the copy of the Declaration of Independence that was signed by the Congress and is now on display in the National Archives. Matlack also penned George Washington's 1775 commission as Commander-in-Chief of the Army of the United Colonies (Continental Army). At about the same time, Matlack was commissioned a Colonel in the local Philadelphia militia, under which he commanded the 5th Rifle Battalion. His battalion campaigned in New Jersey at the Battle of Trenton and the Battle of Princeton. Back in Philadelphia, he continued to serve on committees of inspection and observation, and as a delegate to the new state constitution, Matlack's radical Whig faction proved an important influence on the drafting of that document. He continued to serve in a variety of offices, including the first Secretary to the Supreme Executive Council of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. While serving in that capacity, Matlack served as one of the prosecution's chief witnesses during the court martial trial of General Benedict Arnold.
In 1781, Matlack helped found the Society of Free Quakers, a group that consisted of Quakers disowned for their participation in the American cause for independence. He helped raise money to construct their new meeting house and is credited with the design of the same. He died in 1829, though his legacy lives on through a number of modern typefaces that were inspired by his perfect penmanship, including the typefaces "American Scribe," "Declaration Script," and "Declare."
Image: "Timothy Matlack" by Charles Wilson Peale, 1790, at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.