HANNA, JAMES G., clock and watch maker, gold- and silversmith, and merchant; b. c. 1737 in Ireland; d. 26 Jan. 1807 at Quebec, Lower Canada.
It is likely that James G. Hanna was trained and worked as a clock and watch maker in Dublin until about 1763. He then emigrated to Quebec and established himself in the house of merchant John McCord on Rue Buade. On 5 July 1764 he placed an advertisement in the Quebec Gazette announcing that he “Makes and mends all Sorts of Watches and Clocks, Jewels, &c. with the greatest Care and Expedition.” The following year he sold various articles including jewellery, clocks, finery for trade with the Indians, and materials for clock and watch makers. Located at 15 Rue de la Fabrique, his shop, the Eagle & Watch, quickly became a store for imported goods. Every year he brought in from England a great many fashionable items which enabled the Quebec bourgeoisie to enjoy a style of life like that in London. Jewellery, silverware, arms, scientific instruments, and a variety of other articles were meticulously listed in his advertisements. The popularity of grandfather clocks among the middle class is attributed to him. Hanna imported the movements, which he assembled and fitted into cases made by Quebec cabinet-makers. He also brought in supplies for artists and silversmiths. His business prospered.
Little is known of Hanna’s first marriage other than that the couple had two daughters: Jane, who married James Orkney*, a clock and watch maker, and Mary, who married John Macnider, a tradesman. On 9 Dec. 1787 in the Presbyterian church at Quebec, Hanna took a second wife, Elizabeth Saul, and they had nine children.
In 1788 Hanna paid the Jesuits £360 for a property on Rue de la Fabrique on which stood a frame house that he had bought earlier; eventually, in 1805, he would take up permanent residence there. In January 1794 he set up his store, which had previously been in his home, in the corner house across from the post office. In 1799 he bought the dwelling next door to his from Joseph Kimber for £450; he rented it, to merchants George King and George Chapman among others, before selling it for £400 in 1802. Hanna also owned a house with a bakery on Rue Sainte-Hélène (Rue McMahon), which he rented to master bakers.
Hanna’s social life befitted a member of the town’s élite. He subscribed to the Quebec Fire Society and the Quebec Benevolent Society. In 1790 he supported the endeavours to set up a university there [see Jean-François Hubert*], and in 1791, along with other Quebec merchants, he signed the petition in favour of the payment of lods et ventes. When governors, administrators, and distinguished visitors arrived or departed, he joined the prominent citizens and merchants of the town in signing the addresses of welcome or appreciation that were presented to them. In 1795, along with six other silversmiths, he petitioned for exemption from a law regulating the use of forges [see Michel Forton].
In 1803 Hanna went into partnership with his son James Godfrey* and hired a workman who could repair watches and clocks. He then gradually withdrew from the business. He died at Quebec on 26 Jan. 1807, leaving a modest estate to his family. His home was well furnished, with assorted valuable articles and a library of more than 50 volumes. Only a few serving dishes and articles of trade silver, bearing the mark IH in a rectangle, remain as a witness to James Hanna’s accomplishments.
ANQ-Q, CE1-66, 9 Dec. 1787; 9 Nov. 1788; 3 July, 5 Sept. 1790; 2 Sept. 1792; 23 April 1794; 26 April 1795; 6 March 1797; 30 June 1799; 16 April 1801; 1 Jan. 1804; 29 Jan., 9 Aug. 1807; CN1-16, 2 déc. 1811; CN1-26, 21 mars 1799, 26 févr. 1800; CN1-171, 26 Jan. 1807, 15 Jan. 1808; CN1-224, 12 août 1788; CN1-230, 24 juill. 1795; CN1-284, 20 mars 1805; CN1-285, 26 févr. 1801. MAC-CD, Fonds Morisset, 2, H243/J27.5/2. “Les dénombrements de Québec” (Plessis), ANQ Rapport, 1948–49: 15, 120, 164. Quebec Gazette, 5 July 1764; 8 Aug. 1765; 3 Nov. 1785; 4 Nov. 1790; 2 June, 11 Aug. 1791; 16 Jan., 13 Feb., 10 July 1794; 29 June 1797; 21 March, 18 July 1799; 11 Dec. 1800; 3 Nov. 1803; 19 Feb. 1807. Quebec directory, 1790. Langdon, Canadian silversmiths, 80.