30" cast steel bell from Sears Roebuck catalog?
January 7, 2016 at 1:18 am #24077
I have spent some time perusing the internet and this forum gathering information on what I believe is a CS Bell 30″ cast steel church bell possibly ordered through a Sears Roebuck catalog. The bell was bought most likely in either 1914 or 1915 for a small Catholic mission church in Larkin township just north of Midland, Michigan. When a second church was built in 1964 to replace the smaller structure, this bell was also used, placed in a stand alone tower next to the church. However, when a third church was completed in 2000, the bell was put into storage for placement at a later date. Fast forward to 2016 and we are looking at celebrating 100 years of a Catholic church in Larkin township later this year. As part of the anniversary celebration, the bell is under consideration for being part of a memorial on the church grounds. Some of the fun has been to research the history of the bell and other relics left over from the time of the original charter members.
Most if not all of the original hardware has been kept in storage: (see photos)
Cast steel bell with clapper
Iron wheel with straight spokes
2 A-frame uprights
One noted modification was an attached brace to allow the tolling hammer to be used with a rope pull at the same spot where the iron wheel rope would be pulled down below.
The bell is measured at 30”, rusted on the inside, looks to be painted black on the outside and the magnet test confirms the presence of iron. The uprights and wheel are marked with “No 30” s. The yoke, however, has what appears to be “No 32 YOKE” on one side and “32” in the center on the other side. There is no indication of any other words on the yoke that I have been able to discern.
I also looked to see if there is a date stamped on the inside but have not found any marks. This would at least be in agreement with noted years when dates were stamped on CS Bell bells.
There are first person written accounts of the church being built and the charter members using the Sears Roebuck catalog to furnish the interior. One account states that a raffle was held to purchase the bell as all the money had been spent already. It would not be a stretch to think that the charter members would then also buy a church bell using the same Sears Roebuck catalog.
The general appearance of the bell and its components all appear to point to CS Bell as the manufacturer. Its appearance also matches to what the Sears Roebuck catalog illustrations show except in one detail. All the illustrations seem to show the iron wheel having curved spokes and not straight ones.
Does anyone have knowledge of whether Sears sold only curved spoke wheels with the big bells offered for sale? Do the wheels with straight spokes suggest a different time frame or retailer who sold that type of hardware?
Compounding the issue is the mismatch of the “32” yoke with the other components marked “30”. I have asked to find out if anyone remembers the bell being damaged in some way that required a replacement yoke be ordered but no one has ever heard of a story of the bell mount being repaired. So, still a bit of a mystery there.
Thanks for any insight anyone can provide on these questions.
January 7, 2016 at 1:21 am #24082
January 7, 2016 at 12:40 pm #24086Neil GoeppingerParticipant
Congratulations on your decision to display and hopefully use your church’s bell. From the pictures, I agree that the yoke, bell and parts were made by the C. S. Bell Co. Most of their church bells sold through other firm’s catalogues, such as Sears, said “Cast Steel Church Bell” on one side of the yoke and nothing on the other. This bell doesn’t have that, but the yoke is definitely by C. S. Bell Co. based on its shape. Why it has 32 on the yoke instead of 30, I do not know. Those numbers were on each part so the people assembling the bells would get the correct yoke, A frame stands, bell and clapper together. Perhaps the person doing the assembly wasn’t too sharp, or a little hung over. In any case, there isn’t a big difference in weight of a 30 and 32 inch bell, nor is the location of the balance point vertically of the two sizes very different, so either yoke would likely work satisfactorily.
As to the straight spokes on the wheel versus running spokes, I have never kept track of which style spokes the C. S. Bell Co. used and when, so I have no information on that for you. Check the center hub of the wheel to see if it has added holes for the mounting bolts, as well as the original holes. That would indicate a replaced wheel. The reason they used wooden wheels on the larger bells instead of iron, wasn’t just because of the weight for shipping, it was because the wheels were the most likely item to break. They were thin. I have seen many iron or steel bell wheels with repairs, or just broken in pieces, so breakage of them was common. — Neil Goeppinger
February 29, 2016 at 2:23 pm #24359
Thank you for your response! I wanted to follow up with a few comments.
It does look very likely now that the bell will be displayed as part of a permanent, outside memorial space adjacent to the present church. I will start a new thread elsewhere with questions that I have about the restoration process.
Here, I thought I would share some research on the connection with Sears that I thought might be useful to others. I have been able to examine some old Sears catalogs from the 1890s to the 1930s which showed church bells listed for purchase. I am including some representative pages from these older catalogs which might be useful in dating bells.
Spring 1896 – Fall 1899 displayed: Fall 1899 catalog image
Image shows bell with inscription on yoke — “STEEL ALLOY SCHOOL HOUSE” — might be similar for church bells.
Spring 1900 – Fall 1903 displayed: Fall 1902 catalog image
Image shows a different look with a riveted iron wheel and a decorative feature around the closed end of the bell.
Spring 1904 – Fall 1931 displayed: Spring 1908 catalog image
Image shows bell similar to late 1890s production bells but no inscription.
From what I have been able to find out, the bells were no longer listed in the catalog after the Fall 1931 issue. They may have come back later, but they were not in the 1932 catalogs.
The curved spokes that appear in the Sears catalog illustrations may not correlate to what was actually produced. Whether it was straight or curved seemed to vary from manufacturer to manufacturer based on aesthetics and/or fail rate of using cast steel for wheels. I believe Sears may have kept the curved spokes in the catalog illustrations based on aesthetics.
Also wanted to mention that it pays to double-check measurements. I went back and finally got a more definitive measurement of the bell diameter. It is not 30″ but a 32″ diameter bell, which would match the inscription on the yoke. The A frames do have “30” on them while the wheel is a bit harder to determine if it says “30” or “32”. The wheel diameter was measured at around 31.25″; if you take some off for where the rope would lay in the channel of the wheel, this would be close to 30″.
February 29, 2016 at 2:30 pm #24360
March 14, 2016 at 10:36 pm #24416Neil GoeppingerParticipant
Matt, I note that he Sears catalogue read School House and Church Bell, but on the yokes I have never read the word “School House” on a Sears bell. These were made by the C. S. Bell Co and the yokes read “Cast Steel School Bell” or “Cast Steel Church Bell” on one side with no wording on the opposite side. On the company’s own bells, they had that same wording, but on the other side of the yoke they had “C. S. Bell Co Hillsboro, O.” — Neil
July 24, 2016 at 7:32 pm #24675nightflier51Participant
CS Bell Company no 30 sounds the same on all that size. I have heard 3 of this size and could not tell any difference in the musical tone. One church I been to rings the same as the old school no 30 bell. You could not tell them apart.
July 27, 2016 at 5:15 pm #24689kcoonenParticipant
Another CS BELL No.30 one-of-a-kind.
This No.30 yoke was custom cast for the Grand Rapids School Furniture Co. which only existed between 1886 and 1899 when they merged with others to become American School Furniture and in the 30’s became American Seating Co. of Grand Rapids, Michigan where they began.
This must be a one off bell. I am in touch with AmSeCo currently. While this company had their own casting lines at various times, the lines and style of this bell are of the CS BELL mold… no?
The wheel pictured, of course, is not original.
So lettering slugs could be customized for the order and inserted into the yoke mold as needed.
A couple photos:
- This reply was modified 4 years, 2 months ago by kcoonen.
August 1, 2016 at 1:04 am #24715Carl Scott ZimmermanParticipant
The size number should also appear on the top of the bell itself, though it’s often difficult to find because of dirt or rust. Mismatch of the side frames is much less important (and, I think, more common) than mismatch of other parts.
August 2, 2016 at 4:43 pm #24717kcoonenParticipant
Carl, I have belfry stands marked “22 – 26” and some that are not numbered at all, so you must be correct in that the belfry stands are commonly mismatched, and that is less important than the yoke match.
Also note the “30” is cast into the top of the bell I posted, though I did not accent it with contrasting paint, it is visible directly below the accented yoke number. But, again, I have CS BELL bells without the number cast onto the bowl.
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