Benjamin Russell Hanby (July 22, 1833 – March 16, 1867) was an American composer who wrote approximately 80 songs, the most famous of which are “Darling Nelly Gray” and the Christmas song “Up on the Housetop”.
Hanby was born near Rushville, Ohio. He later moved with his family to Westerville in 1853 where he attended Otterbein College.
Hanby composed “Darling Nelly Gray” in 1856 in what is now a state historical site, the Hanby House, located at 160 West Main Street in Westerville, adjacent to the campus of Otterbein College. After graduation Hanby briefly taught school and then became a minister. During his tenure as minister of a church near Dayton he composed “Up on the Housetop” in 1864 for use as a Christmas sing-along.
In 1865 Chicago publisher George Frederick Root published “Up on the Housetop” and brought Hanby to Chicago to pursue other publishing ventures. Hanby died from tuberculosis in Chicago on March 16, 1867.
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