Welcome to the ABA! Bell Talk Forums General `Bell Stuff` Bell Information Needed for Novel

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    • #24649
      pls210
      Participant

      Hi,
      I am writing a young adult mystery novel set at a New England prep school and focused around the authenticity of the school’s prized historic bell. While the bell will be fictional, I wanted to research some things and make it as historically accurate as possible. I was hoping someone might be able to assist with some questions I have.

      – Who is the earliest American bell founder? Aaron Hobart?
      – What types of inscriptions were typically put on bells? Was there any significance to the alphabetic string of letters I’ve seen on some bell inscriptions?
      – What are some of the more unusual inscriptions that have been used?
      – From what I read the European bells had better tone quality than American bells. Is that true and why?

      I’m sure there are more to come. I really appreciate any assistance or suggestions on other sources. Thank you in advance.

      Patti

    • #24650
      Neil Goeppinger
      Participant

      Hello Patti, I will try to answer your questions in order.

      The oldest bell founder of whom I have record in the U.S. is John Phillips of New York City in 1717.

      I quit looking when I came to him as my list is alphabetical and I knew I was looking for a foundry in 1717. Others I found who pre dated Aaron Hobart (1761), were Able Parmalee of New Haven, Conn., (1736), Aaron Miller of Elizabeth Town, New Jersey, (1747-1759), John Pass of Philadelphia, Pa. (1749), and Pass & Stow also of Philadelphia, Pa. (1753). The latter recast the Liberty Bell. After I found what I was looking for (John Phillips, 1717), I quit looking so there could be others in my list between P and Z.

      Typically on bronze bells the standard inscription was the name of the foundry, the city and state in which it was located and the year the bell was cast.

      I do not know what you are referring to by “the alphabetic string of letters” you have seen on some bell inscriptions. Could it be Latin on a Catholic bell? Their inscriptions used to often be in Latin.

      Many things are inscribed on bronze bells. The name of the person donating the bell, the name of the church it is going to, the name of the saint the bell is named after in the Catholic Church (they name their bells), even who was on the committee to buy the bell. In the case of Universities ordering a bell, the names of all the Trustees of the University have been inscribed. In my town a Lutheran church had a bell, the church burned and the bell was partly melted, so the metal was sent back to the foundry and the story of the original casting, the fire, and the second casting was all inscribed on the side of the bell. The possibilities seem endless.

      A common inscription is “I TO THE CHURCH THE LIVING CALL, AND TO THE GRAVE I SUMMON ALL”.

      The British book CHURCH BELLS OF ENGLAND (by H. B. Walters, published in 1912 by Henry Frowde, Oxford University Press, London, New York, Toronto and Melbourne) has 2 chapters on The Inscriptions of Bells. It has 35 pages of old bell inscriptions.

      Regarding the Europeans having better sounding bells, I am sure the Meneelys, McShanes and Vanduzens would beg to differ with that statement, were they here to do so. That said, in the late 1500’s Peter Hemony discovered how to tune bronze bells to specific notes so music could be played on them and developed the carillon. U.S. founders weren’t able to do that until the 1800’s, and carillons never became as popular in the U.S. as in Europe, so only a few were made here. Measured on the ability to tune bells, European bell makers were more skilled. The bell foundry industry in the U.S. really started with Paul Revere in 1792, so you can see the Europeans had over a two hundred year head start.

      I hope these answers help you. — Neil Goeppinger

    • #24676
      Neil Goeppinger
      Participant

      Hello again, Patti. I was researching something else and came across some more large bell inscriptions in an old book published in 1938, so here are some more. (The Book Of Bells, Satis N. Coleman, The John Day Company, New York).

      I AM THE VOICE OF LIFE. I CALL YOU. cOME AND PRAY.

      I PRAISE THE TRUE GOD, I CALL THE PEOPLE, I SUMMON THE CLERGY, I MOURN THE DEAD, I PUT THE PLAGUIE TO FLIGHT, I GRACE THE FEAST, I WAIL AT THE FUNERAL, I sTOP THe LIGHTNING, I PROCLAIM THE SABBATH, I AROUSE THE LAZY, I SCATTER THE WINDS, I SOFTEN THE CRUEL. (all on one bell).

      I RING AT 6 TO LET MEN KNOW WHEN TO AND FROM THEIR WORKE TO GOE. (old English spellings).

      I RING TO SERMON WITH A LUSTY HOME THAT ALL MAY COME AND NONE MAY STOP AT HOME. (again old English spelling).

      PEACE AND GOOD NEIGHBORHOOD

      ALTHOUGH I AM BOTH LIGHT AND SMALL, I WILL BE HEARD ABOVE YOU ALL.

      IN TUNEFUL PEALS YOUR JOYS I’LL TELL, YOUR GRIEFS I’LL PUBLISH IN A KNELL.

      I MEAN TO MAKE IT UNDERSTOOD THAT THO I’M LITTLE, YET I’M GOOD.

      IF YOU HAVE A JUDICIOUS EAR YOU’LL OWN MY VOICE IS SWEET AND CLEAR.

      LORD, QUENCH THIS FURIOUS FLAME; ARISE; RUN; HELP; PUT OUT THE SAME. (on a fire bell)

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