Brass? Bronze? Bell Found on Farm
Tagged: brass bronze copper cowbell
June 6, 2018 at 12:13 am #26848
Looking for some help in identifying this bell found on our family farm in Nebraska! Our farm was originally homesteaded in 1868 and we took ownership in 1966. This bell, however, was found in soil near the edge of the barnyard about a month ago and we’d never seen it in our 50+ years there. There are no marks for a foundry or any company – just highly decorative and very heavy.
The ring/holder unscrews from the bell and you can see a small hole for the insertion of a wire-held clapper. The bell had no clapper in it, but incredibly my mom found it when cleaning out the basement of the 118-year-old home this weekend. My brother now thinks he found it as a kid using his metal detector and it got shelved and forgotten.
I’d love to know where it was made and how it was used. The farm is in an area of heavy German settlement in the late 1800s so I’m thinking it’s possible it’s German in origin. It could possibly be a cowbell or a gate bell; my brother thinks since it was found near the site of a windmill that it was some kind of alarm that went off when the windmill didn’t work. I’ve never heard of bells on windmills, but who knows.
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June 18, 2018 at 7:25 pm #26883GarryParticipant
What a great find! I will have to go through some of my research books for you on this one. Does it hold a rare earth magnet at all? That is sometimes an indicator between bronze and brass. From the coloring inside I suspect it’s bronze.
The round shape of the handle indicates to me, at first blush, that this is more likely a ‘door bell’ and could likely be from the windmill. it would be hung from a rope and shaken from above as a signal, or hung on a leaver arm and pulled from a rope below to ring. These shapes have also been used as a hand ring bell (pick up and shake), though typically that style has more of an oblong shape.
I am booked for the next few days but I’ll check as I have time and let you know if I come across anything.
June 18, 2018 at 7:52 pm #26884
Thanks for responding, Garry!
I don’t know if I’d know a rare-earth magnet if I saw one, but I don’t see anything out of the norm.
Interesting that you think it could be a doorbell – it doesn’t really work well as handheld, but being pulled by a rope is a possibility. It’s also been suggested to me that it could have been on the windmill to act as a dinner bell or something. I’m mostly curious about its age in helping to identify it, as the windmill is nearly 100 years old and I’m guessing the bell by its decoration could be 19th century.
I look forward to any other ideas you may have on it!
June 20, 2018 at 10:46 am #26897GarryParticipant
A rare earth magnet simply means a natural one rather than man made. They tend to be stronger. The test is to help tell brass from bronze; Brass= Copper + Zinc so not magnetic, Bronze= Copper + Tin so slightly magnetic. Bronze was discovered much before brass. I can’t tell from the photos if the oxidation is from a cleaning paste or if it’s blue or white. Basically Brass will oxidize to white then brown and bronze will oxidize to grey then blue, as a general rule. That helps indicate the material it’s made from non-intrusively.
I attached 3 photos of typical bell hangers of this type of bell, to help visualize where I am going. The one on the spring shows a different top to the bell, but I have actually seen this looped top of yours this way as well, I just couldn’t find a photo of one quickly. I suspect it is primarily a rope hung bell though.
It still could be used as a hand bell, as a lot of small bells get used multiple ways. Elephant claw bells, for example are made with button tops that attach to harnesses like a shirt button does. They are actually so often used as hand bells too, that they have developed a ‘cup’ desk holder for the bell to sit in when not in use!
The design you have does indeed look Austrian to me so could be of German origin. I have, so far, been unable to find an example of it in my references, but will keep looking.
Perhaps one of our other members might have more info on it as well.
Thanks for posting this interesting bell!
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June 20, 2018 at 12:53 pm #26907Carolyn WhitlockParticipant
Although I have never seen a picture of this type of bell, my opinion is that it is bell. I have two reasons for thinking this. First, the handle has a hole in the stem that could mean the actual clapper was suspended on a wire threaded through the hole. Second, the picture of the inside of the bell shows a “wear mark”, that lighter colored circle where the clapper would have hit the bell when it rang.
Since you said this bell was found in the ground, it may have been used on a sheep, for instance, or some other smaller animal such as a goat. It seems a bit fancy for an animal bell but it may have been used as one. Again, this is just an educated guess!
Thanks for sharing this fascinating bell with us!
June 20, 2018 at 1:29 pm #26908
Thanks! I think you left out a word, i.e. what type of bell you think it is. Pretty sure it’s not for an animal, though, as it is fairly large, heavy, and decorative. And as I mentioned in my original post, we did find the clapper for it – I just haven’t posted any pictures with it.
June 20, 2018 at 7:51 pm #26909Carolyn WhitlockParticipant
No, I didn’t leave out a word. I said, ” It seems a bit fancy for an animal bell but it may have been used as one.” That opinion was based on the fact that it was found in a field.
June 21, 2018 at 8:05 am #26914
The first line was the one I was talking about: “Although I have never seen a picture of this type of bell, my opinion is that it is bell.” And I said it was found in the barnyard, not a field. Thanks!
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