Benjamin Banneker

Benjamin Banneker was the true definition of a renaissance man. Born in 1731 to free parents in Baltimore County, Banneker's last name was a derivative of his birth name Banneky or Bannakay. Benjamin's grandfather was an ex-slave named Banneka. Benjamin's father, Robert adopted the last name Banneky after marrying Banneka's daughter, Mary. Though it is unsure exactly when the spelling of Banneker began, the spelling stuck with Benjamin. As a son of planters, Banneker had very little formal educational training in his youth, which makes his life's accomplishments even more remarkable. Throughout his life, his interests in math and science ranged from astronomy, calculus, inventing, architecture and surveying, just to name a few. Around 1753, Banneker invented the first wooden clock in America, developing his prototype from the pocket watch. Although the invention was certainly significant for his time, it did not bring Banneker great fortune. During the eighteenth century, a person's value was rooted in land and harvesting cash crops. Banneker spent practically his whole life growing tobacco and wheat in Baltimore County. His occupation coupled with his vast knowledge of science prompted him to begin publishing almanacs in 1791 entitled "Benjamin Banneker's Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia Almanac." Its publication was revered by many planters for it accuracy in predicting lunar phases, rain and harvest seasons, and the tides of the Chesapeake Bay. The reputation he gained from the almanac made his name famous among notable people of the day like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. In the same year, Banneker found himself working with a group of men headed by longtime associate Andrew Ellicott, charged with being the head surveyors of Washington DC, the soon to be capital of the United States. Banneker died on October 9, 1806.     

Image of Benjamin Banneker

Land Record for Robert and Benjamin Bannakay

November: Joe Gans (1874)

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