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Benjamin Hanks is generally accepted to be the first person to make bronze cannons and church bells in the United States. He was a goldsmith, instrument maker, clockmaker, bellfounder, and foundry owner.[3][4][5][6][7][8]

Benjamin Hanks
Benjamin Hanks.jpg
Benjamin Hanks

(1755-10-29)October 29, 1755[1]
DiedDecember 15, 1824(1824-12-15) (aged 69)[1]
ResidenceLitchfield, Connecticut, USA
OccupationGoldsmith, brazier, military drummer
EmployerFoundry owner
Known forMaking large church bells,
silversmith / goldsmith,
bronze cannon maker
instrument maker;[2] took part in the Lexington Alarm triggered by Paul Revere's "Midnight Ride"
Spouse(s)Alice Hovey
ChildrenTruman, Horatio, and Julius Hanks
Parent(s)Uriah and Irene (Case) Hanks
RelativesBrother, Rodney Hanks (1782–1846), and eight other siblings


Early lifeEdit

According to historian Susan Whitney Dimock's 1898 book "Births, Baptisms, Marriages, and Deaths: From the Records of the Town and Churches in Mansfield, Connecticut, 1703–1850" Benjamin Hanks was born 29 October 1755 in Mansfield, Connecticut. [9] The vital records of the Town of Mansfield, however, states he was born on December 15, 1755. Hanks' parents, Uriah and Irene (Case) Hanks, were married March 20, 1755.[10] Hanks had nine siblings, all of whom were younger.[2] Hanks lived at home until he was seventeen years old, when in 1772 he was apprenticed to Thomas Harland, a well-known clockmaker in Norwich, Connecticut, until Hanks established a clock business in the city.[11]

Mid life and careerEdit

Hanks was a military drummer in the American Revolutionary War and took part in the Lexington Alarm triggered by Paul Revere's "Midnight Ride" of which he served about a month then.[12] Later Hanks re-enlisted and served in the Third Regiment under Israel Putnam from mid May through mid December 1775.[12] He rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, commandant of the fifth regiment of militia in Connecticut.[12][13]

Hanks married Alice Hovey around 1775 to 1777 in Windham, Connecticut. In 1780 they moved to Litchfield, Connecticut and built a house from which he ran his home business as a goldsmith / silversmith, maker of instruments, clocks, looms, and compasses.[2][14]

In 1786 Hanks established a foundry just south of the Court House in Litchfield and ran a "Brazier's business".[15] He was famous for making church bells at this foundry.[15] He ran his businesses out of his home until 1790 when he moved to Mansfield, Connecticut, where he continued his businesses.

In 1808 Hanks became a partner in a foundry with his son Julius Hanks in Troy, New York.[3] They took out a newspaper advertisement describing the brass cannons and church bells they manufactured.[3] Their foundry also made goldsmith's items, stocking looms, clocks, and surveyor's compasses based on David Rittenhouse's designs.[16][17] Hanks obtained a patent for "Molding and Casting Bells" in 1816. The Troy foundry manufactured large church bells under this patent.[18] The Troy foundry also manufactured tower clocks and surveying tools.[3] One of the apprentices, Andrew Meneely, went on to open a foundry of his own, which eventually became the Meneely Bell Foundry.[3] After Hanks' death in 1824, the Troy foundry was operated for a year by his son Julius and eventually absorbed by the Meneely Bell Foundry (owner: Andrew Meneely) in 1826.[19]


Hanks' first large church tower bell was mounted in The Old Dutch Church in New York City in 1780 when he was contracted to make the church tower clock.[20] Hanks obtained a fourteen-year intellectual rights patent in 1783 on this tower clock that automatically wound itself by air.[20][15][21][22][23] The patent said the clock would wind itself up to operate by the use of air. It would automatically continue to wind itself up and operate until the mechanical parts wore out due to friction.[24][25][26][27]

Hanks made the first two bronze cannons made in the United States in 1797.[28] The First Company of Connecticut Artillery carried them.[28]


Hanks and his wife had three children.

  • Truman Hanks
  • Horatio Hanks
  • Julius Hanks

Death and legacyEdit

Hanks died in West Troy, New York, on December 15, 1824, at the age of 69.[29] He is buried in Albany Rural Cemetery, Menands, New York.[30] He is considered the father of the church bell and bronze cannon business in the United States.[31]


  1. ^ a b Sons of the American Revolution 1916, p. 136.
  2. ^ a b c "Genealogy of Hanks bellfounders". TowerBells. 2003. Retrieved 12 July 2013.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Benjamin Hanks". Delaney Antique Clocks. Retrieved 12 July 2013.
  4. ^ Skinner, Charles. "Bell Casting in Troy". Meneeley Bell online Museum. Archived from the original on 30 June 2014. Retrieved 12 July 2013.
  5. ^ Shepherd 1969, p. 143.
  6. ^ The New England Historical and Genealogical Register 1932, p. 20. "In the early part of the Revolutionary War Benjamin Hanks was a Tory. ... left Litchfield and returned to Mansfield, where he established a bell and bronze-cannon foundry and cast the first church bells and bronze cannons made in this country.".
  7. ^ Jeryan, Christine (March 2011). "Henry Ford Museum – Pic of the Month". The Henry Ford. Retrieved 12 July 2013. Another of Uriah's sons, Colonel Benjamin Hanks (1755–1824) was a clockmaker and established a foundry. It is believed that he cast the first church bells and bronze cannons made in America
  8. ^ White 1967, p. 397. "Col. Benjamin Hanks, his older brother, cast the first brass cannons and the first church bells made in America.".
  9. ^ Dimock 1898, p. 98.
  10. ^ Dimock 1898, p. 247.
  11. ^ "Chronology of Mansfield, Connecticut, 1702 - 2002" MHSM - Manuscript collection of the Mansfield Historical Society, Mansfield Library, Mansfield, Connecticut 06250: Mansfield Historical Society, first printing 1974, Revised 2003, p. 191 Check date values in: |year= (help)
  12. ^ a b c Smart 1962, p. 70.
  13. ^ Hoadly,, Charles J. (1894). The public records of the State of Connecticut ... : with the journal of the Council of Safety ... and an appendix / pub. in accordance with a resolution of the General Assembly. Connecticut: Press of the Case, Lockwood & Brainard Company, 1894–1922. p. 197. Retrieved 12 July 2013.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
  14. ^ Bailey 1975, p. 63.
  15. ^ a b c Herman 2008, p. 237.
  16. ^ Hoopes 1930, p. 79.
  17. ^ Bedini, Silvio A. (1964). "Early American Scientific Instruments and Their Makers". Project Gutenberg (March 14, 2012 -Release Date). p. 47. Retrieved 12 July 2013.
  18. ^ Hoopes 1930, p. 83.
  19. ^ American-Irish 1927, p. 3.
  20. ^ a b Hoopes 1930, p. 79-83.
  21. ^ Nutting 1924, p. 215.
  22. ^ Perez 2010, p. 19.
  23. ^ Knight 1876, p. 571.
  24. ^ Hoopes 1930, p. 81.
  25. ^ The Society 1996, p. 671,v.78.
  26. ^ Bugbee 1967, p. 88.
  27. ^ Bugbee 1960, p. 213.
  28. ^ a b Smart 1962, p. 71.
  29. ^ Daughters of the American Revolution 1910, p. 309.
  30. ^ Albany Rural Cemetery records
  31. ^ Hanks Jr., George (Jan 1994). "The Bell Foundries of Troy" (PDF). Hanks Historical Review / Vol 4 Issue 1. Retrieved 12 July 2013.


External linksEdit