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      ABA – How & Where It All Began

      Chautauqua Institution – Chautauqua NY (http://www.ciweb.org/)

      Miller Bell Tower


      History of the ABA

      Mary Alter Collins, of Pennsylvania, spent her summers in Chautauqua, New York, at a spiritual and
      cultural retreat. In 1940, Mrs. Collins won the first prize in the annual poetry contest there and decided
      to use the purse to buy a permanent memento. She went to the bookstore at Chautauqua, and picking up
      a 5” brass bell (made by Bells of Sarna) with a wooden clapper, and said, “This donkey bell from India
      has a pensive soft tone. I think Iʼll become the first bell collector!”

      “Oh, there are several here in town,” was the proprietorʼs response. Within a week, a few people met to
      discuss bells and to start an informal club – The National Bell Collectorsʼ Club.

      Eleanor Jean and Edward Carter were founding members and offered to write a newsletter for the members of the new club. Membership jumped from three to seventy in the first year. When Mr. Carter went into the armed services in 1942, Eleanor Jean gave up the publication.

      Mary Alter Collins and her daughter-in-law, Louise Collins, thought it would be an interesting challenge to edit the magazine. The publication was called “The Bell Tower” in honor of the Miller Bell Tower at Chautauqua.

      Louise and her husband, Robert Collins, continued editing and printing the magazine until 1988. Early
      issues were printed on a mimeograph machine and all issues were mailed from the rural mailbox of the Collins home. The monthly six-page newsletter cost just $1.00 per year and postage was just .02 each! Readership grew to almost 2,400, and Robert by then had a press in the basement with state-of-the-art collators and staplers. In 1988, after 45 years, the job was moved to a printing house.

      The 1948 convention was held in Chautauqua, NY. It was at this convention that the National Bell Collectors
      Club changed its name to American Bell Association. In 1984, when the association incorporated, the name was changed to American Bell Association International, Inc.

      Thanks to Kathleen Collins and Carolyn Whitlock for additional information.


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