Benjamin Hanks was born in Mansfield, Connecticut in 1755. He married Alice Hovey in Windham, Connecticut and 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.
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.
Hanks obtained a fourteen-year intellectual rights patent in 1783 on this tower clock that automatically wound itself by air. 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.
The petition of the inventor reads:
“That your petitioner, after unwearied trouble, pains and study for a number of years now last past, in search of mechanical knowledge, not only for his own pleasure and amusement, but for the benefit of mankind, has made a large improvement thereon by inventing, contriving and executing a clock or machine that winds itself up by the help of the air, and will continue to do without any other aid or assistance, until the component parts thereof are destroyed by friction, which will keep the most regular time of any machine yet invented. as it is ever wound without any variation or stop to her motion, and consequently not only a great ornament, but improvement in mechanism, which your Honors’ petitioner will submit to your honors, and beg them to take the matter into their wise consideration; and he has been at great pains, trouble and expense in accomplishing the same, that they would graciously grant unto your petitioner the sole and exclusive right and privilege of making and vending said kinds of clocks for the term of fourteen years.”
(Signed) Benjamin Hanks.
Dated at Litchfield, this 6th day of October, A. D. 1783.
In 1786 Hanks established a foundry just south of the Court House in Litchfield and ran a “Brazier’s business”. He was famous for making church bells at this foundry. He ran his businesses out of his home until 1790 when he moved to Mansfield, Connecticut, where he continued his businesses.
Hanks made the first two bronze cannons made in the United States in 1797. The First Company of Connecticut Artillery carried them.
In 1808 Hanks became a partner in a foundry with his son Julius Hanks in Troy, New York. They took out a newspaper advertisement describing the brass cannons and church bells they manufactured. Their foundry also made goldsmith’s items, stocking looms, clocks, and surveyor’s compasses based on David Rittenhouse’s designs. Hanks obtained a patent for “Molding and Casting Bells” in 1816. The Troy foundry manufactured large church bells under this patent. The Troy foundry also manufactured tower clocks and surveying tools. One of the apprentices, Andrew Meneely, went on to open a foundry of his own, which eventually became the Meneely Bell Foundry. 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.
“Proceedings of the Worcester Society of Antiquity for the year 1907” (Worcester Historical Society, Worcester, MA) No. 4 Vol. 23, pp. 191 & 192