Craig Fitzpatrick

Carolyn – Thanks for getting my pictures loaded and let me know if you saw anything about them that caused them not to work when I tried to load them through the attachment link.

Carl Scott Zimmerman – thanks for your comments in info. Here’s a little more background: The Masonic Home for Children in Oxford, NC was called the Oxford Orphan Asylum when it was founded in 1873 by the Grand Lodge of Masons in Raleigh, NC. The Masons purchased land that had a large building on it that had been originally been St John’s College for young men before the Civil War. It seems very coincidental that the bell has the same date as the founding of the Orphanage and seems reasonable to think that the bell may have been ordered for the opening of the new institution.

The original St Johns College building was a substantial 3-story brick structure that had a central tower that may have had a bell in it before the conversion of the facility to an orphanage. It’s likely that ‘Life by the bell’ would have been the routine for the young men at the college just as it became for the Orphans later on. As always, unraveling the history of an artifact that has been through so much change will probably be impossible. We should probably feel fortunate that the bells didn’t go off the the scrap year long ago. The photos I have of the original building all have the top of the tower cut off (out of the frame) so I don’t know what it looked like. I will look for a full image and report all this newly acquired info to the archivist I’m working with on the project. There may be records of the purchase of the bell held by the Grand Lodge Masons in Raleigh.

It’s interesting to know that the bell was probably not machined although I’m a little disappointed that I won’t be seeing any photos of bells being machined on big old lathes. The inside of this bell has a much heavier coating of paint than the outside and I have not attempted to clean the inside yet. The lower inside edge is fairly sharp and so looked to me like it may have been turned but I can certainly see that it could have been cast at that level of finish. How could I tell if were machined as a way to tune it? When you say ‘sweep’ marks on the mold surface, I’m assuming that you’re referring to the trace lines left by some type of template that swept the inside and outside surface of the pattern used to make the mold halves. We’re bronze bells produced with what is known as ‘lost wax’ or ‘investment’ casting? If so what were the patterns made of? It would seem like there would have been sufficient demand for bells of this size to make it worth using a quantity production technique like conventional sand casting.

Thanks again for your comments and experience.