October 21, 2009 at 7:16 pm #11266
Seeing Garry’s post about the doorbell made me think about a bell I have had for several years. There was a time when these bells were in fairly abundant supply, but I don’t see them around so much now. I have wondered whether this bell was a part of some type of doorbell apparatus or whether it had some other purpose. The end of the spring is threaded; so, I assume, it was screwed into something. I had thought it might be industrial to notify if a machine was out of balance, but I don’t know. Garry’s post remimded me that there are a number of experts just waiting to tell me what this was used for. So, I’ll thank you, in advance for your help learning more about this bell!
October 21, 2009 at 9:00 pm #14948Carolyn WhitlockParticipant
I’m curious to know how big this bell is. I have a bell I inherited from my mother that doesn’t look anything like this one but it seems to have been made to slide onto a flat pan lid. Supposedly it would start to ring when the pan started to boil! I don’t know if that’s a real story or someone’s “creative thinking!” I have the bell packed away but when I come across it, I’ll take a picture and post it. The bell is quite a novelty as is yours!
October 21, 2009 at 9:52 pm #14949
I think that’s interesting! My bell is 4″ in diameter and 4 1/2″ to top of brass part of bell. The spring is 10″ from top of bell to threaded end, and it is 1 1/4″ in diameter. It’s a pretty hefty bell. I think it would be too large to signal a pot’s boiling (unless, perhaps, a cauldron 😆 ). I do seem to recall numerous devices to either alert one to a pot’s boiling or to prevent one from boiling. In a past life, I collected unusual kitchen gadgets. There were too many of them, they were taking on a life of their own!! I thought bells would be better—NOT!
It’s good to visit with you again,
October 22, 2009 at 12:43 am #14951Carolyn WhitlockParticipant
I agree with you! Your bell is much too hefty to be a “pot minder.”
That’s fascinating about your former collection of unique kitchen gadgets! I have heard that Julia Child used to be a big kitchen gadget collector, too.
As you said, there are as many unique bells as kitchen gadgets, I’m sure!
October 22, 2009 at 1:26 am #14950
A question: How ‘heavy’ is the spring? I can’t tell because it’s in a resting state. If you were to hold it up – how easily / much would the loops move apart?
My thoughts are as follows:
1) If it’s a moderately weak spring, I would think it was designed for a moving structure. The mass of the bell would hold it relatively steady through swings and bumps by simple momentum conservation. A big flat snail shell coil that we see on most bells over door frames would be too stiff (especially in the ‘side’ direction where it wouldn’t bend at all) and would ring the bell every bump or sway. That would suggest a moving vehicle of some sort that doesn’t move too violently normally. I am thinking a train carriage butler’s bell (run by a butler pull cord) in a high class car, or simply an alert bell for some train man via a pull cable, or perhaps something similar in a cruse ship. That way the sway would not ring the bell but a sharp pull on an attached cord would.
2) if it’s a heavy spring (does not easily spread it’s coils) then I am thinking its probably for a more industrial use. Imagine the bell being hung with the spring under tension (probably the spring bent in a partial U shape). If the tension was released then the bell would swing and ring rather forcefully as an alarm. The coiled spring arrangement would be less prone to deforming if bent in the wrong direction or by metal fatigue if held in the compressed position for a long period – where the flat metal snail coil of the door bells I mentioned earlier would most likely fail. Something like a large trap door that hold the bell in the ‘cocked’ or bent spring position while closed but if it falls open the bell would ring. Or perhaps a weaker wire holding it in a stress position that would break if the equipment shifted or melt if it got hot – or something like that- releasing the bell to ring.
The other interesting point about the coil spring vs flat snail coil is that the spring would dampen out the swing faster than the snail coil. Again suggesting it was installed in something moving.
Hopefully this might help tweak some ideas/memories of others to help out! I look forward to seeing what we come up with!
October 22, 2009 at 2:45 am #14941
You did give me a lot to think about. The spring is very heavy. I am unable to flex it more than about halfway. I had not thought about it on a moving vehicle but I’m not too sold on that idea. The spring doesn’t “spring” much, but the length is such that the bell rings without much movement to the end of the spring. I had thought about its being held in a flexed position and released by something or its being struck by something mobile. I’m reminded of the vacuum tubes that clerks sent sales receipts and cash to the department store’s office. I know they didn’t use a bell like this to announce the carrier’s arrival, but they could have. I did take a look at the inside of the bell. I can see where the clapper has worn a groove, but it is kinda indistinct–not indicative of a lot of use.
When I said there used to be a number of these bells around, I was being fairly literal. About fifteen or twenty years ago, I saw similar bells, some smaller with shorter springs, in many local antique shops and frequently at trades days. I have noticed that things tend to run in cycles at these affairs. You’ll see something–be it a type of bell, or hat blocks, or milk bottles, etc.–everywhere you go; then they will disappear and some new fad will take its place. The sheer numbers I recall seeing would suggest some industrial use? 😕
Thanks, keep on thinking,
October 22, 2009 at 12:32 pm #14946
You are welcome Sam!
Yes, I agree – if the spring is heavy then the first suggestion, which relies on a weaker spring, is incorrect.
I have not seen these attached to a spring like this before myself – but I’ll keep an eye open for them. If they were very prevalent then it is very likely someone on this site will know what it is. We will simply have to wait until they log on and reply.
I would think, especially if you see a worn spot for the striker, that if it was struck on the side you would also see a worn mark there. The spring suggests that some movement (abet restricted) was expected out of the whole bell – otherwise it would have simply been fixed to a cheaper solid mount. If you don’t see any wear points on the outside of the bell or spring that would probably indicate that it was not struck directly on a regular basis.
Can you tell if there was something else mounted (most likely where the bell mounts to the spring) on this structure? Like a wire going from it to something else that would hold it in tension like a trigger? That would give you wear inside for the striker without outside marks.
October 22, 2009 at 12:55 pm #14942hjlong3Participant
This does appear to be a doorbell. I am not certain whether this bell would have been attached directly to the door or hung above the door to be jostled when the door opend and closed. I suspect the former since it could have blocked closure of the door if hung above it.
Harry Long, MD
October 22, 2009 at 8:40 pm #14945
I agree with Harry, The bell itself in particular is the classic door bell style. He is very likely correct for it’s use, but I am very curious about the use of the more expensive ‘spring’ rather than the flat spiral curved metal arm I see in most photos and drawings. The spring is significantly more expensive and does not appear to add anything to the prettiness or functionality of the bell.
You indicated that you had seen lots of these in the days gone by, and I know that people back then are just as reluctant to spend money as they are today. As a rough simile, it’s the equivalent of choosing bottles vs cartons for milk today – how many of us choose the more expensive bottles even though they are more readily recyclable and therefore we actually have a solid reason to pick them? I have a tough time trying to explain why they would use the more expensive spring for such a mundane task when the cheaper one is just as effective. About the only explanation I can hypothesis is that the springs would probably physically last longer. I would think that the cost would be a few times more for them though so I don’t know if it would be a recoverable amount of dollars over any reasonable time frame.
But with that said, have a look at the one and only photograph of this nature that I was able to find! What do you think?
October 22, 2009 at 8:51 pm #14943
Here, for comparision, is the more common type I have seen. One is fancier than the other just for an idea of how they might be fancied up for higher end buyers.
I have seen them with greater and lesser ‘coils’ for the flat spring piece.
Both of these forms are still made today.
October 22, 2009 at 9:06 pm #14944
Good afternoon, Garry
I think your picture looks like my bell only with a fancy brass bracket. My bell appears to have had a harder life than the one in the picture–it is pitted and rougher in texture. I was kinda afraid it would have some mundane function–like being a doorbell. I really liked thinking about its being in some industrial use, but it would appear this is not productive thinking. I am still curious about why so many would be on the market at one time and then disappear from the scene, and why they would ALL be separate from the bracket.
Thanks for all your thought and effort,
October 23, 2009 at 1:07 am #14947
I find it interesting to try and determine how and where things are used.
I would not give up on the industrial use just yet. Remember, the one I found here was one of the few still being produced. Notice that the ‘tail’ is longer on it as well and it does not appear to be an iron spring. It wouldn’t be the first time that an industrial object has been ‘re-invented’ as a decorator piece! Look at wagon wheels today – very few of the ones being produced actually make it onto wagons, most end up as yard art.
The bell itself is likely to be used for many different purposes, likely the most common being the ‘Door Bell’ that Harry and I have been mentioning. But many things back then got multiple uses and the heavy more costly industrial type mounting on yours certainly strongly suggests to me a different function. For example In our bell world; take those small India or Sarna brass bells with a loop for a handle we see everywhere. If they are hung from a rope, they are a door bell chime set, put them on a counter and it’s a clerk’s counter bell, according to a couple articles I have read specific shaped ones are also used by specific groups of people to indicate status. Hang them on a motor bike and they are ‘memory bells’ now. They are also traveler’s bells, animal bells … and the list goes on. So don’t let one use blind you to the others, even if that use may be the most common.
To answer the bracket question: If it was spot welded or ‘riveted over’ in it’s mounting, for example on the end of a small rack or trolley car used to move heavy items around inside a plant as a warning device, likely they would simply be cut off to be recovered. The easiest and most likely place to cut would be that long tail and would explain why it is so short right now! It would also explain why they don’t turn up with the entire mounting still in place – that would be the whole trolley car in my example.
Of course I don’t know if they were ever used that way on a trolley, but I can think of a plethora of similar potential industrial uses for bells like this back then. If I can now, I am sure others did then too. It would also, in my mind, explain a lot of the details that I have already mentioned earlier.
I intend to keep looking!
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