Joseph Jenks, Sr.

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Joseph Jenks, Sr.

Birthplace: Colebrook, Buckinghamshire, England
Immediate Family:

Father of Joseph Jenks, Jr.

Occupation: Iron Worker
Managed by: Donald Spencer Deal
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Joseph Jenks, Sr.

• The First Iron Foundry in America • Joseph Jenks, Jr. - Founder of Pawtucket


One of the earliest American mechanics was Joseph Jenks, who came from Hammersmith, England, to Lynn, Massachusetts, about 1642, and died in 1682. With the backing of Governor Winthrop, he set up an iron foundry and forge near a bog-iron mine. The very first attempt in America to start an iron works had been made in Virginia more then twenty years before, at the settlement of Jamestown. It was hardly started, however, before it was destroyed in the general sack of the settlement, and for one hundred years there was no further attempt at producing iron in Virginia. From a little forge and foundry started at Lynn, there is no break in the spread of iron manufacturing in this country. The forge was located on the grounds of Thomas Hudson, of the same family as Hendrick Hudson, the explorer. Jenks was "the first founder who worked in brass and iron on the western continent. By his hands, the first models were made and the first castings taken of many domestic implements and iron tools." The very first casting is said to have been an iron quart pot.

For many years the colonial records refer to his various activities. He made the dies for the early Massachusetts coinage, including the famous pine-tree shilling. In 1646 the General Court of Massachusetts resolved that "In answer to the peticon of Joseph Jenckes, for liberty to make experience of his abilityes and Inventions for ye making of Engines for mills to go with water for ye more speedy despatch of work then formerly, and mills for ye making of Sithes and other Edged tools, with a new invented Saw-Mill, that things may be afforded cheaper then formerly, and that for fourteen yeeres without disturbance by any other setting up like inventions; ... this peticon is granted." In 1655 he was granted a Massachusetts patent for scythes, his improvement consisting of making them long and thin, instead of short and thick, as in old the English scythe, and of welding a bar of iron upon the back to strengthen it, which later became the universal practice, and no radical changes has been made in the blade of this implement since his day. He built for the town of Boston the first fire engine used in this country, and also made machines for drawing wire. Jenks seems to have also been interested in another iron works started at Braintree between 1645 and 1650. An iron works was started at Raynham in 1652 by the Leonards, who came from England about the same time as Jenks and had worked at Lynn. The Jenks and Leonards families were all mechanics. It used to be said that wherever you found a Leonard you found a mechanic; and the Jenks family has been in some form of manufacturing continuously from the days of Joseph Jenks to the present time.

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Joseph Jenks, Sr.'s Timeline

Buckinghamshire, England