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    • #10612

      Bill asks:

      I am looking for information on the American Bell Foundry of Northville, Michigan. I have a bell #22 made there. My deceased father bought it in an auction in 1958 and I now have it. I think it was an old one room school bell, but that is all I know. Can you advise me where to get more information? I have searched the web and haven’t found anything on American Bell Foundry. I also know nothing about bells. I think this one is made of iron or steel.

      If you can help Bill, please post a response or send your response to Thanks.


    • #13153

      The American Bell Foundry was originated in 1899. The company made bells of all sizes for churches, schools, farms and factories. The most popular being the dinner bell. Northville was an industrial mecca for church and school furniture, butter churns, etc…… The bells were made in Northville before the Am Bell Foundry was started in 1899. The bells probably started in 1895 as part of the Globe Furniture Company’s foundry operation. In 1896 the bells were being made under the name of the Am Bell Foundry. In April of 1899 the Globe was destroyed by fire and the AM Bell Foundry was organized. The new company manufactured bells and did general foundry and machine business. The company purchased the foundry buildings together with the old patterns. The bells were sold to Sears, Montgomery Ward and American Seating Co. By 1902 the company (30 employees) could not keep up with the demand with orders coming in from around the world. The company was sold in 1920 to J.B. Foote Foundry of Ohio and in 1924 it became the Bell Furnace & Manufacturing Co. The bell making probably ended in 1924.

      We had one of the American Bell Foundry Bells (24″ church bell w/wheel)in our yard and donated it to the historical society in Northville when we left the area in 1997. Try to get your hands on a paper bound book entitled Northville … The first hundred years by Jack W. Hoffman

    • #13154

      Rick G. has asked me to post this response:

      I too am looking to find more info on this foundry and bell manufacture. I recently became the proud owner of a ABF # 24 cast iron that was taken from a school house in north eastern Oregon or so the story goes. The only clue I have on the last home of the bell is photos of bell on the school and district # 22 on the side of the building. Some grandparents of a friend are in the photo are said to have torn down the structure and that is how they got the beast. It has the wheel, clapper, stand and is in reasonably good shape I believe………but I’m a newbee in this area. The only flaw is one of the splines on the wheel is broken and one has a surface crack the other two are fine.

      The only lead I can share is when I Googled “Bowlden Bells” I can up with a reference to the DeGolyer Library Trade Catalog and specifically listing 1075 which states they have a catalog on Bowlden Bells # 12 from 1903 and is 36 pages. That is a far a I got. I do however have an e-mail in SMU asking for their assistance in getting a look see at the document. If I get a hit I will share it.

      Still Looking

      Rick G


      This inquiry was originally sent to the ABA’s Internet Coordinator. Responses are opinions of individuals based on their personal research and knowledge.

    • #13155

      RE: American Bell and Foundry — AKA — Bowlden Bell

      Rick writes:

      Well this is turning out to be quite the journey. With hours of e-mails and $9.50 I’m happy to send you something I thought I would never catch up to the “American Bell And Foundry Company” catalog from 1903. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I ordered photo copies of the catalog but when received it was beyond my greatest expectations. Quite simply put, the catalog is outstanding. It provides history, philosophy, descriptions of their products complete mounting instructions, belfry design, ringing instructions, care of the bell down to rope size and more.

      The document answers lots of questions I had about ABF and the Bowlden bell. For instance, the name Bowlden bell refers to the type of bells they made, which would be “steel”. Anyway I hope you enjoy the catalog and as I continue to track down the school from which it haled I will pass this info along as well…..should you be interested.

      I hope all find the read as enjoyable as I.

      Rick G

      Rick has sent me a .pdf file showing the 19 pages of the catalogue. I will be looking into finding out if and how I can post it on the forum.


      This inquiry was originally sent to the ABA’s Internet Coordinator. Responses are opinions of individuals based on their personal research and knowledge.

    • #13156

      Thanks are due to Rick for sending the .pdf file and to our webmaster at Shoestring Solutions Web Design for giving us a link to it. If you are interested in looking at the American Bell and Foundry Company booklet on bells and their catalog, please click on this link:

      You should be able to print out the booklet for easier reading since it is displayed sideways.

    • #13158


      I have just found your web sute as I have been looking for information on our American Bell Foundry #3 bell I bought at a farm auction from our long long family friends across the road. They have had it (and 1,000 old farm implements) in their family forever. I read with interest the catalog that Rick found on the bells and have downloaded the pdf, (Thank you very much!!!). I was wondering if Rick could tell me where to order the actual catalog from?

      Thank you,


    • #13159
      todd lower

      Years ago I had a printing company make copies of all the major bell foundries . These catalogs are very high quality and look identical to the original.The catalogs cost $25.00 which includes shipping.Thanks todd 419-350-7262

    • #13160

      I have an AM Bell and foundry #12, cast iron 15 3/4″ across base of bell. Interested in finding out when it was made
      Thank you

    • #13161

      In reply to Chris’ inquiry of Oct 15, 2008, I thought I would share this:

      I have the same bell. In researching the approximate time period, I know it was made AFTER 1903, since it is NOT included in the 1903 ABFCo catalog. My bell came from the family farm in Nebraska, and I’m thinking it was bought new in 1910. My reasoning is that the history of the farm tells where a wealthy man from the east bought the entire section and built everything new at the center of the section in 1910. Everything from the house, the barn, the cribs, everything is dated about 1910, even an antique clock I have from the house. My grandfather and the easterner’s son became best friends, and in 1920, my grandfather bought a half section on the side of the section that included the farm house and everything that was in it. I have pictures from the 1940’s of this farm bell right outside the kitchen door.

      There are other years of the ABFCo catalogs besides the 1903 I saw probably available and if I find a more definitive answer I’ll let you know.

      I think our bells are classed as a 16″ ABFCo bell, No. 12, also call Bowlden Bells.

      If you still have the bell, is the crank ok? My bell does not have the crank and I was hoping to find an original ABFCo #12 crank. I don’t
      necessarily want to buy yours but if your crank is in good shape, my cousin is a pattern maker and said he would cast one for me if I had the pattern. So, if you have the crank, are you interested in selling it, or interested in loaning it so that I could make a pattern copy?

      Best wishes, Neal Bryan Vance, Saginaw, Michigan

    • #13162

      😀 I just purchased a bell with a 15 3/4″ diameter. It was lying on the floor of an antique shop in
      Lake Mills, Wisconsin. I paid 148 bucks for it because thought it would look cool in my man cave. It was only after doing a little research did I find you guys. The bell has the harp intact, as a matter of fact the entire bell and ringer assembly is functional. The harp says NORTVILLE MICH USA on one side and AMERICAN BELL FOUNDRY CO on the other. It also has #12. From what I gather from the information Bowlden Bells are made if steel. I haven’t as yet determined if it is indeed steel or cast iron. Anyway could one of you nice gentlemen tell me how to date this bell and if it is old, what it’s worth?

      I should tell you however, much to my dismay, that the entire bell was recently painted a gloss black. Now I don’t know how to salvage it. Would sandblasting be appropriate? Would finding the person who did this thing and… Anyway I found a piece of American history I think. Please advise.

    • #13157

      Hi I would get some paint remover and take the paint off of it. It will take some work but will do the job. If you find an amount of rust after the coating of paint removed, then you can sand blast it. After sand blasting in a short time, rust will develop again. A good quality of flat black paint is most popular in bell colors. Most bells other than bronze and brass were cast steel alloy with amalgam alloy. Charles bell of CS Bell Co, i think, was the first to alloy amalgam in his bells. Cast iron was very brittle for bells and easy to crack. The steel alloyed bells were more durable.

    • #26850

      I have acquired my family’s farm bell its a #12 American bell& foundry with all pieces working. What year would this be an d what is the value of this bell. To me pretty priceless but would love to know. I remember my great grandma ringing this bell for supper. Great memories! Thank you in advance for your response.

    • #26870
      Carolyn Whitlock


      How wonderful that you have acquired your family’s #12 American Bell Foundry farm bell! One thing we can’t do is determine the “sentimental” value of your bell. As you said, it is priceless to you!

      One thing you could do to determine the approximate value is to search for “#12 American Bell Foundry Bell” on online auction sites and follow the auction to see how much people are willing to pay for it. You might also do a search for “#12 American Bell Foundry Bell” on your search engine and see what comes up. Of course, you can also search for bell appraisers if you’re willing to pay for their services.

      If you go to:, you will find several postings about the company.

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