The undated poster was likely produced circa 1989, the year Baltimore County established the Benjamin Banneker Historical Park, as the support group was established by that time. Since no area code is included, it must have been prior to 1991, the year area codes were introduced.
In 1983, the Maryland Historical Trust conducted an archeological survey and located the home’s site. Additional testing in 1985 and 1986 confirmed the findings. The dig revealed details about 18th century rural life-style, with particular emphasis on the life of free blacks in the area.
Benjamin Banneker was born a free black in Baltimore County in 1731, to parents Mary and Robert. When he was six years old, his father purchased 100 acres of land, and placed Benjamin’s name on the deed. After his father died in 1759, Benjamin became sole owner of the farm, known as Stout, which would remain his home until his death on Oct. 9, 1806.
Self-taught, Banneker was recognized for his achievements in mathematics and astronomy. At the age of 22, he constructed a wooden striking clock, which he based upon the gears from a borrowed pocket watch. It was written that the clock kept perfect time for 50 years.
For most of his adult life, Banneker made his living as a tobacco farmer. Then at age 57, he began the study of astronomy, which led to calculating a solar eclipse and weather predictions—enabling him to produce a series of almanacs, considered essential reading for farmers. This knowledge also led to his being part of a surveying team that laid out the boundaries of Washington, DC.
Banneker was named by President George Washington and Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson to be part of the team led by Andrew Ellicott IV, considered one of the finest surveyors in the United States.
In his later years, Banneker sold parcels of the land but retained the portion that contained the one-room log cabin that he grew up in. It was there that he died; the cabin burned to the ground during his funeral service being held nearby.
In 1998, the Benjamin Banneker Museum opened. It contains a wealth of information about the man and his accomplishments, as well as changing exhibitions. The gallery includes a copy of the deed showing that the 100-acre site was purchased with 7,000 pounds of tobacco.
Today, visitors to the Banneker Historical Park and Museum can see a reconstructed 10x13’ cabin that was erected in 2007, in the style of the original structure, on a site in close proximity to where Banneker’s home stood. The actual site is being preserved as was found during the archeological dig.
On June 9 and 10, the Friends of the Benjamin Banneker Historical Park and Museum and Baltimore County Department of Recreation and Park present a two-day Colonial Market Fair. This free event— now in its 14th year— features demonstrations of crafts and trades of the period, children’s activities, music as well as an opportunity to tour the log cabin and the museum.
The park also offers a variety of trails including a historical loop around the museum and archeological site, conservation paths and a nature trail that connects to the paved historic No. 9 Trolley Line Trail.
The Catonsville Room houses a wide array of materials on Benjamin Banneker, including books, articles about the archeological dig and the history of the Banneker Historical Park and Museum.
Thanks go to Bryce Rumbles, librarian at the Catonsville Branch, and Lisa Vicari, Catonsville Room volunteer and board member, Friends of the Catonsville Library, for their research assistance. Anyone interested in ordering digital reprints of any of the historical images featured in this series, should contact Bryce Rumbles at firstname.lastname@example.org.