Benjamin Hanks of Litchfield, Conneticut

212103 Benjamin Hanks of Litchfield, Connecticut.

This inlaid cherry case tall clock measures approximately 7 feet 9.5 inches or 93.5 inches tall to the top of the center finial, 20.5 inches wide and 10.5 inches deep.  The dial measures the standard 12 inches across. It was made by Benjamin Hanks of Litchfield, connecticut circa 1790.

This case is in excellent condition. The case stands on four nicely formed and flared French feet.  The transition for one foot to the next is done with a scrolled apron that visually hangs from the base panel. The feet are separated from this panel by a line inlay that divides the two sections, feet and base, on all three sides. The base panel features good horizontal grain in long gentle lines.  A string inlay frame featuring ovolo corners helps to center the center oval inlay. This panel features an American eagle with outstretched wings clutching an American shield. The waist is fitted with a rectangular door that is also decorated with inlay. The door is trimmed with a molded edge. One would open this door in order to gains access to the inside of the case. Here, the pendulum rod, brass faced bob, rating nut and the two weights are accessible.  The sides of the case are fitted with fluted quarter columns.  Both terminate in brass quarter capitals.  The bonnet features a pierced and open fret work design. It is supported by three fluted plinths that are surmounted by three brass finials.  The front bonnet columns are smoothly turned and fluted. These are mounted in brass capitals and visually support the upper bonnet molding. The back columns are also fluted. These are neatly fitted into the back corners of the case. The sides of the hood feature tombstone shaped side lights which are fitted with glass. The bonnet door is also an arched form and fitted with glass. This door opens to access the dial.

The iron painted dial is signed by the Maker, “Ben’ Hanks. Litchfield.” The floral decorations in each of the four spandrel areas are colorfully formatted. The display of the time and date are done so in the traditional format. This dial also features a lunar calendar or moon phase mechanism in it’s arch.

This movement is constructed in brass and is good quality.  It is weight driven and designed to run eight days on a full wind.   It is a time and strike design having a rack and snail striking system.  As a result, it will strike each hour on the hour.  This is done on a cast iron bell which is mounted above the movement. 

This beautiful clock was made circa 1790.  It stands approximately 7 feet 9.5 inch tall to the top of the center finial. The upper bonnet molding is 21.75 inches wide and 11.25 inches deep.

About Benjamin Hanks of Windham and Litchfield, Connecticut and Troy, New York.

Benjamin Hanks of Litchfield, Connecticut.

Benjamin Hanks was a skillful and energetic mechanic who made clocks and watches, carried on the repair business of each, was a goldsmith, a maker of stockings, looms, compasses, brass cannons and large church bells.

Benjamin Hanks was born in Mansfield, Connecticut on October 29, 1755 the son of Uriah and Irene (Case) Hanks. The Hanks family was an inventive group. At one time, they became the Nations largest producers of silk by importing the first mulberry trees from England and planting them in Connecticut and raising silk worms. Soon they invented and improved the apparatus for making silk into thread and constructed the first powered silk mill in the United States. The family built numerous forges and Benjamin is believed to be the first to cast large bells and bronze cannons in the country.

It is recorded that Benjamin learned the clockmaking trade from Thomas Harland, a noted Norwich clockmaker. Benjamin must have arrived at Harland’s doorstep with a solid mechanical background because his service with Harland had to be unusually short. Harland doesn’t arrive in Norwich until 1773 and Benjamin is said have been in the Boston area just before April of 1775. Why, well it is recorded that Benjamin served as a drummer during the Revolution and, in that role, took part in the march to Lexington in response to Paul Revere’s alarm. Shortly after, he enlisted or was assigned into General Israel Putnam’s Third Connecticut Regiment. Putnam was originally from Danvers, Massachusetts and move to Pomfret, CT in order to peruse inexpensive land. Putnam rushed north when he received news of the Battle at Lexington and Concord and joined the Patriot cause. He was a primary figure at the Battle of Bunker Hill. Perhaps Benjamin knew Putnam from his time in Connecticut? During this tumultuous time in our Country’s history, Hanks is said to have spent time working in a foundry owned by Paul Revere during and after the war. And yet, he still had time to married Alice Hovey about 1775 in Windham CT. (Alice Hovey was born on 15 Dec 1754 in Mansfield Center CT, christened on 19 Jan 1755 in Mansfield Center CT and died in Troy NY.

By 1777, at the age of twenty-two, Benjamin Hanks advertises form Windham, Connecticut as a Clock and Watchmaker and that he continued in the metal-smith’s trade making (according to an advertisement from the late 1770s) spurs, buckles, beads, hilts, clocks and watches, as well as general silver and gold work. In 1780, Benjamin moves to Litchfield, CT and builds a house and shop at 39 South Street to carry on his businesses. It is in the town of Litchfield that he performs the following accomplishments. Shortly after the move Benjamin is awarded the contract to make the clock for the Old Dutch Church at Nassau and Liberty Streets in New York City. In 1783, he petitioned the General Assembly for a patent for his invention of a clock wound automatically by air, and in 1785 advertised his clocks, Church clocks, pneumatic clocks, watches with center sweep seconds, surveyors’ compasses, etc. In 1786 he established a foundry and began casting large church bells. On the 6th of August 1787, Benjamin installs a bell in the Litchfield meeting house. The original one was broken. This bell was paid for by the society. In early 1790 he set up a “Brazier’s business.” In 1790, Benjamin moves to Mansfield where he continued to make clocks, bells and carried on the woolen business. In 1808 he and his son Truman form a partnership in the bell business and build a foundry in Troy, NY. The foundry made an assortment of items, including tower clocks, surveying tools, and church bells. One young man apprenticed at the Hanks’ West Troy foundry was Andrew Meneely who would later establish his own foundry in Troy and become one of America’s leading bell-makers.   Meneely is also buried in the Rural Cemetery in a family lot on the Middle Ridge. On the 4th of November, Benjamin was granted a patent for “Molding and Casting bells.”

Benjamin Hanks dies in Troy, New York in December of 1824 at the age of 70.


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