A Tale of Two Brothers

In 1780 and 1786, two brothers were born to a Quaker cabinetmaker in Wilmington, Delaware. Benjamin, the elder brother, was apprenticed to Thomas Parker in Philadelphia to learn clockmaking. While learning his craft, he spent nearly all his free time going to lectures and meetings throughout the city, and, despite his mother's concerns, even learned French from the many emigrants fleeing the Revolution. While he initially pursued clockmaking as his trade, he later discovered that his true passion was history. Upon returning to Wilmington with his family in 1813, he gave up clockmaking and turned to writing as his main vocation.

Ziba, Benjamin’s younger brother, was apprenticed to Benjamin in Philadelphia from a young age. But he moved back to Wilmington much earlier, in 1807, and promptly opened his own shop. Through account books and newspaper records we know that Ziba pursued his trade with passion, but still contributed to the greater Wilmington community alongside his work.

Benjamin and Ziba’s stories offer a glimpse into the passions and interests prevalent in Wilmington during the 19th century. While the brothers initially had the same training in clockmaking, they diverged in their professional lives and how they wanted to be viewed by their peers. Do we perceive them today how they wanted to be seen, or has history imposed itself upon their stories?


Katie Fitzgerald