Do you recognize this bell? I need help!
January 2, 2015 at 5:17 pm #10743Carolyn WhitlockParticipant
I am a new member and hope you can assist me with a question. I would like to see if anyone can tell me something about the bell in the attached photo. I don’t know how or where to post it. The bell was in my mother’s collection since at least the 1960’s. It is approximately 10″ tall, and contains a thermometer in the bell post. It appears to be bronze.
Please let me know how I may go about this task.
Thank you, and Happy New Year!
March 4, 2015 at 10:02 pm #13417
After a lot of searching (finally a google image search did the trick), I found an auction result for an identical bell. It is described as a rare Viennese table bell, circa 1890. Here is the link to the auction site: https://auctionata.com/o/12474/rare-vienna-bronze-table-bell-with-thermometer-around-1890
March 17, 2015 at 3:29 pm #13418robfromcanadaParticipant
I rarely write in the forum, but I thought you would like to know about the thermometers that appear on this bell. There are several different combinations of three different temperature scales, Fahrenheit, Celsius and Réaumur. Some have only one scale which is engraved on the left, others have two, one left of the mercury tube and the other on the right. I first came across the Réaumur temperature scale when I was investigating an “R” scale on a friend’s bell. I first thought it might be the Rankin scale, but the numbers didn’t make sense. Room temperature on the Rankin scale is 527°R! I eventually came across the Réaumur temperature scale which fit.
The Réaumur temperature scale was established in 1730 by the French naturalist René-Antoine Ferchault de Réaumur (1683–1757), with its 0°Ré set at the freezing point of water and its 80°Ré mark at the boiling point of water at normal atmospheric pressure. As you undoubtedly know Fahrenheit’s freezing and boiling of water are 32°F and 212°F and in Celsius they are 0°C and 100°C. Room temperature is roughly 68°F, 20°C and 16°Ré respectively.
Use of the Réaumur scale was once widespread in France, Germany& Russia, but by the late 1800s it had been supplanted by other systems. In fact on 1 April 1794 the revolutionary French government instituted the centigrade (now called Celsius) scale as part of the new, decimal metric system, thus doing away with the Réaumur scale. Its only modern use is in the measuring of milk temperature in cheese production. It is still used in some Italian dairies making Parmigiano-Reggiano and Grana Padano cheeses and in Swiss Alp cheeses.
Astonishingly the five bells that we know about have five different sets of temperature scales. There is a photo of this bell on the cover of Dorothy Anthony’s “World of Bells #2”. The scales on it are F & Ré. Others are C & Ré, Ré & C, C only and ours is Ré only. The two that have only one scale have “Eis” (ice) engraved on the right hand side opposite the zero mark. I think I can see that yours has F on the left side, but I can’t interpret the scale on the right. Please let me know.
We have another desk bell with an unusual combination of double inkwell, thermometer and a compass. The thermometer on it is engraved “Centigrade” on the left and “Réaumur” on the right.
March 17, 2015 at 4:10 pm #13419
Thank you, Rob, for that information. The scale on the right of the thermometer is “R”. Very interesting that each bell has a different set of scales. Were you able to determine the scales on the bell sold at auction?
March 17, 2015 at 5:44 pm #13420robfromcanadaParticipant
Yes, that was the one that I reported above that was C alone. If you enlarge the photo you can see that the temperature reads ~20°, so presumably it is Celsius and to the right is a quite clear Eis at the zero mark. This is the only one we know of that has no Ré scale on it. The “Eis” pretty well pegs these bells as Germanic in origin rather than French. That’s for the thermometers at least, if not the entire bell. For the friend’s bell that started it all see: The Bell Tower, Jan/Feb, 2010, pg. 29, fig. 37.
March 18, 2015 at 5:33 pm #13421
Your information has been very helpful and is much appreciated. I don’t have access to the Bell Tower issue you mention and I can;t find it online. I would love to see a copy.
March 18, 2015 at 9:48 pm #13422Carolyn WhitlockParticipant
The article to which Rob is referring is a 15-page article about Mechanical Bells written by Florent Wagner and other contributors. It is Part 2 of a series Florent researched and wrote about 5 years ago. The ABA offers copies of its articles for sale at our cost (copy, envelope, and postage) to people who would like them.
If you go to https://americanbell.org/resources/ and click on Bell Tower Directory, a list of articles from The Bell Tower magazines printed between 1977-2012 will come up for you to look at. You can order any article(s) that you want from the ABA Historian. Directions for doing that are at the top of the first page. Be forewarned, however: The list is 39 pages long!
We are in the process of updating and redesigning this list so it will include articles from 2013 and 2014.
Treasure your bell! Do you have other bells, too?
March 19, 2015 at 4:21 pm #13423
Thank you, Carolyn. Yes, I have approximately 150 bells, from a collection my mother started in the 1950’s until she passed away in 1984. The “thermometer bell” is the most unique. her collection consists of a variety of small bells, made from metal, glass, and porcelain. My mother was an ABA member.
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