Eli Bentley of Taney Town, Maryland. An inlaid walnut cased tall clock.

About Eli Bentley West Chester, Pennslyvannia and Taney Town, Maryland.

Eli was born on February 16, 1752 in Concord, Pennsylvania. He was the third child of Joseph Bentley, the tavern keeper of the Red Lion Tavern in Doc Run, Pennsylvania. At age twenty, he married Mary Hunter who was the first cousin of clockmaker Thomas Shields. He soon bought a home at West Whitelands, near West Chester, Pennsylvania and made clocks there from about 1778 to 1787. It is said that clocks were not in demand during the Revolutionary War, so Eli and his brother caleb became silversmiths. (It is recorded that MESDA owns one piece each of silver signed by Eli Bentley and his brother Caleb.) In 1787, Eli bought a lot in Taney Town, but the exact date his family moved there is unknown. In 1790, the year of the first census, Eli Bentley and eight family members were registered in Taney Town. Here he made clocks and repaired them until his death in 1822 at age of 70. Major Alexander McIlhenny of Uniontown bought clock works from Bentley in 1817 for $60, then paid cabinetmaker George Christ an additional $40 for a case. This was a huge investment at the time – an indication of McIlhenny’s wealth. Most makers left their names somewhere on the faces of their clocks, but sometimes they appear elsewhere – even on the pendulums. Identifying the cabinetmaker who built the housing can be more difficult. His clocks ranged from simple thirty-hour single weight clocks to ornate eight day clocks with sweep second hands and moon dials. His brother Caleb and Jacob Kuhns were administrators of his estate.

It is said that he made in excess of fifty tall clock examples in his lifetime. As a result, he is considered to be Carroll County’s best-known craftsman of the period. As a maker of clocks, his examples are highly prized possessions for those lucky enough to own them. The Carroll County Historical Society is proud to have five examples in its collection. Additional clocks are pictured in several Horological reference books. A fine example fitted with a composite brass moon phase dial is pictured in Pennsylvania Clockmakers, Watchmakers and Allied Crafts written by James Biser Whisker.

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