8. First Documentary Evidence of “The United States of America”

USA-1776-document-nyc-untapped citiesAbove is what’s previously been though as the earliest use of “United States of America.” Image via N-YHS

The first usage of the phrase “United States of America” as the name of our country has long been disputed. Yes, it is in the Declaration of Independence, but there is some earlier evidence. The above image is thought to have been the first, appearing in the Virginia Gazette on April 6, 1776, found by Byron DeLear of the Christian Science Monitor. But then he bettered his own findings when he brought the Historical Society’s attention to a January 2, 1776 report by Stephen Moylan to George Washington. Moylan, an acting secretary to General Washington said “I should like vastly to go with full and ample powers from the United States of America to Spain.”

It may not seem so impressive now, but this was seven whole months and a week before the country declared independence from Britain. If Moylan came up with it, that is unclear. But there’s some idea that maybe his superior, George Washington had used it before, thus prompting Moylan to use it in a letter. We typically attribute the name to Thomas Jefferson, John Dickinson, Thomas Paine, and Elbridge Gerry. But now Washington and Moylan can be added to the list of credit.