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Notary Notes

Honoring Notaries on Notary Public Day

While we celebrate notaries every day at PAN, November 7 is specifically set aside as Notary Public Day in tribute to more than 4.4 million notaries in the United States. 

The first Notary Public Day was created by the American Society of Notaries and celebrated in 1975 to "recognize notaries for their public service and their contributions to national and international commerce." The date of November 7 was chosen to honor Thomas Fugill, the first notary public in America. He was appointed by the Colony of New Haven on October 25, 1639 (Julian calendar), November 7 on the Gregorian calendar now in use. 

Unfortunately for Fugill, he was excommunicated and forced to return to England in 1646 after it was learned that he falsified records. 

Notable Notaries Throughout History 

When Christopher Columbus sailed to the New World in 1492, notary Rodrigo de Escobedo was tasked with witnessing discoveries and recording all official transactions on behalf of Spain's King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. He was one of the first Europeans to walk on the shores of the New World. 

Nathaniel Gorham, a Massachusetts notary and businessman, served as a delegate to the Constitutional Convention. His signature appears alongside John Hancock, Alexander Hamilton and Thomas McKean, among others on the Declaration of Independence. McKean, a delegate from Delaware, was also a notary and the last person to sign the Declaration. 

In Pennsylvania, Isaac Craig was the first notary appointed under the new independent state constitution in 1791. Craig came to western Pennsylvania and purchased the site of Fort Pitt and resided in the blockhouse with his family for several years. He is credited with filling "many offices of public trust," and "Played a vital role in documenting the formation of the country." 

In 1841, Charles Bellinger Tate Stewart became a notary and served in the Republic of Texas government when it declared independence from Mexico. He also designed the iconic Lone Star flag. 

Infamous Texas notary, Judge Roy Bean, founded the town of Langtry in 1882 and held court in a saloon he owned. He called himself the "Law West of the pecos" and offered notary services along with ice-cold beer. 

Samuel Clemens, aka Mark Twain, was appointed as a notary in 1864 in Virginia City, Nevada by his brother, acting Nevada Governor Orion Clemens. Clemens resigned his notary commission several months later and moved to California. He claimed he left town to avoid legal trouble after challenging a local man to a duel after an argument over one of Clemens' newspaper articles. 

Emily Calkins Stebbens was one of the first, if not the first, female notary commissioned by Iowa governor william M. Stone in 1866. Clara Foltz and marilla Ricker, known for their work during the women's rights movement, served as the first female notaries in California and the District of Columbia, respectively. It wasn't until the rise of urbanization in the late 1800s that demand for notaries prompted women to take on the role. 

In the November 1, 1890 issue of The Cleveland Gazette, Robert Day was noted as the "first colored man in the state of Pennsylvania to be appointed a notary public ..." the publisher of the Gazette complimented Day stating that "he is so well known in Ohio and in his own state as to need no further comment." The publisher encouraged his readers to "use every effort to build [Day] up in the business he has entered." Thirty years later, the Gazette published a small article on Mary S. McMahon, an attorney who received the first notarial commission issued to a woman in Ohio. 

When President Warren Harding died in 1923, Vice President Calvin Coolidge took the oath of office from his father, John Coolidge, a Vermont notary. 

Modern-day celebrities who at one time were notaries, include humor writer Dave Barry, who became a florida notary in 1994 to officiate a friend's wedding; actor Stanley Tucci, singer-actress Jennifer Lopez, and actress Mindy Cohn (The Facts of Life, an NBC sitcom). 

PAN salutes all notaries and commends their service, skill and attention to detail in preventing fraud. 

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