Benjamin Banneker was born a free man in Maryland on November 9, 1731, and lived as a land-owning farmer of modest means. So, how did Benjamin Banneker become a historical figure? Banneker’s invention of the clock propelled his reputation.
Sometime in the early 1750s, Banneker borrowed a pocket watch from a wealthy acquaintance, took the watch apart, and studied its components and inner workings. He made a drawing of each component, then reassembled the watch and returned it, fully functioning, to its owner. From his drawings, Banneker then proceeded to carve, out of wood, enlarged replicas of each part. Calculating the proper number of teeth for each gear and the necessary relationships between the gears, he completed construction of a working wooden clock in 1753. The clock was amazingly precise. As the result of the attention his self-made clock received, Banneker was able to start up his own watch and clock repair business.
Banneker’s clock kept accurate time and struck the hours for over 50 years until it was destroyed along with most of Banneker’s other belongings in a mysterious house fire that took place on the day of Banneker’s funeral. Benjamin Banneker has been credited for making the first clock to be built completely in America.