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Four Elements

Peter Hill

by Synatra Smith, Ph.D. on 2021-08-19T12:00:00-04:00 in Black Artists | Comments

Born July 19, 1767, on the property of enslaver Joseph Hollinshead Jr. in Burlington Township, New Jersey, Peter Hill is the first known Black clockmaker and the only identified Black clockmaker of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Hill was Hollinshead’s apprentice from age fourteen to twenty-one and was able to open his own clockmaking business before purchasing his freedom a few months prior to his twenty-seventh birthday. He was officially manumitted on May 1, 1794, and went on to live and work in his own series of shops, first in Burlington Township and then in Mount Holly, New Jersey. Hill died in December 1820 and was buried in the Society of Friends’ Burial Ground across the street from his former residence and shop in Burlington Township.


PMA Collection



Bedini, Silvio A. 1999. “Peter Hill, the First African American Clockmaker.” In A Question of Manhood: A Reader in U.S. Black Men's History and Masculinity. Vol. 1, “Manhood Rights”: The Construction of Black Male History and Manhood. Edited by Darlene Clark Hine and Earnestine Jenkins. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Smith, Jessie Carney. 2003. “Science and Medicine.” In Black Firsts: 4,000 Ground-Breaking and Pioneering Historical Events. Detroit: Visible Ink Press.

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