March 4, 2013 at 3:23 pm #12217LanaMacParticipant
I’m hoping to find information about an elephant bell which belonged to my husband’s grandfather, who is now deceased. The bell was found in the ground during excavation for the foundation of a store in Pictou, Nova Scotia, Canada. I believe this was during the 1940s or 1950s.
The bell is four inches in height and just under four inches in diameter. It has a square base under the handle and four sides consisting of flat square and triangular pannels. The images I’ve been able to find of elephant bells all feature rounded bodies. The panels and top feature a floral motif with punched dot detailing and are inlaid with red enamel, which is chipping off. The following pieces of information are punched onto the prongs in tiny dots: “H.K”; “MADE IN INDIA”; “1557”; and “WNC.”. One of the prongs is missing.
I showed it once to an antiques appraiser who said it was likely a modern-day tourist souvenir and that the “1557” was probably a lot number. I don’t expect the bell has value as a collectible but it has sentimental family value, and we are curious about it. Any information people can suggest about its possible origins (manufacturer, date of manufacture) would be appreciated.
March 5, 2013 at 2:28 pm #17374GarryParticipant
What a wonderful little bell you have!
It’s commonly also called a ‘claw’ bell and yes, it’s in the style of the elephant bells they use in India. The top ‘tab’ slips into a slit in the leather harness like a button does on your shirt, so that the flat end is against the skin.
It’s enameled, which is a very nice touch. The fact that it’s also enameled on the top indicates that it was likely never really intended as a harness bell, but rather used as a desk bell or shop keeper’s bell. Often those bells also came with a matching ‘egg cup’ for them to sit in between uses.
The shape is also very unique, most of these are spherical in shape.
The pea inside these bells was usually a small pebble, although sometimes a junk piece of brass appears to have been used.
H.K. is likely the initials of the bell’s maker, it was /is common for them to use a small punch to mark the bells as buying a metal stamp with initials and words is expensive, so likely is from a small manufacturer. The “made in India” is called a ‘back stamp’. During the depression the United States required that the words “MADE IN” be added to any imports to show where the lion’s share of the manufacturing took place. The idea was to ‘buy USA’ to keep the jobs and work in the States. 1557 is indeed likely the ‘model number’ of this bell. WNC needs some research, but it’s interesting to note that the only thing that I could find which matched up was in the Indian Military “Western Naval Command”.
So your dates 1940/50 match up with the Backstamp.
The appraiser’s feeling that it was imported as a decorative piece is probably correct. (although 1950 is usually considered pretty vintage and approaching antique to me, not something I’d call ‘modern day’). However, It is likely that they are producing similar bells today, so if at all possible, document the bell as much as you can. Letters/photos/ etc. of where found when found by whom, supportive documents etc. Do it before all traces are lost! That way you have provenance for it’s age.
I suspect, from what you describe, and the shape/markings, you indeed have an imported bell, possibly originally made for the WNC but never collected by them so resold as a decorative item to the proprietor in Canada. Likely from the age you specified especially as it’s shape is very Art Deco which fits very well too. (Although appearing before and after, Art Deco’s hay day was between 1925 and 1940 – WWII caused it to decline as it was considered too ostentatious and wasteful during the war years.) So some old stock appearing in the markets after the war would indeed fit! People were scrambling to recover so even if originally earmarked for WNC it could indeed have been sold elsewhere.
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