Welcome to the ABA! Bell Talk Forums General `Bell Stuff` FIRE DESTROYS BEVIN BROTHERS MANUFACTURING

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    • #12064

      This is from an email from ABA member Marie:

      The fire, reported at 11-30 PM Saturday quickly went to five alarms and was responded to by thirty agencies. Reports say the factory in East Hampton, CT. is completely destroyed. At least ten nearby families evacuated to a local shelter. No injuries were reported as of this writing.
      Bevin Brothers has been in business since 1832 and was the world’s leading manufacturer of sleigh bells. They crafted the Grace Episcopal Church ornamental bells and the blue and white Civil War bells available through the Friends of the Norwich Bells and the Slater Museum. The company was preparing to make an undetermined number of small bells commemorating the visit of the Amistad to Norwich for Freedom Weekend, June 14 through 16.
      Kevin Harkins

    • #17003
    • #17004
    • #17005

      Loss of East Hampton Bevin factory in fire saddens local bell enthusiasts
      By Claire Bessette
      Publication: The Day

      Published 05/30/2012


    • #17006
      Robert Watrous

      The news from East Hampton CT is bad, horribly bad. The Bevin bell factory burned to the ground Saturday night. On Sunday the phone calls and emails from friends, relatives and fellow collectors around the country started arriving here. Bill Jones, a mechanical bank collector from Connecticut was the first to tell me. I quickly checked the internet for confirmation. It was true. I called a friend in East Hampton, Jay Hansen to see if by any chance the office was saved. He got back to me with the news. It was all gone.

      I had always hoped to see the archives of the Bevin bell factory. They had been in the bell making business since 1832. Many of the bell makers of East Hampton learned their trade in the Bevin factory. There was one patent for a bell toy by Isaac Bevin in 1876. Their focus was bells and not the bell toys. That does not mean Bevin was not important to bell toys. The mechanism for the bicycle bell showed up in many bell toys and toy telephones. Cross pollination of manufacturing knowledge, techniques and experience between Bevin and the other bell making shops was common. As just one small example, bell toy maker and bicycle saddle maker, John C. Wells, learned his trade at Bevin Bros.

      Bevin was the last survivor of an era of small bell making in East Hampton that started flourishing with the Barton introduction of the technique of making sleigh bells with the jinglet cast into the bell, saving the time consuming task of making the bell in two parts and welding it together. Many companies sprang up in East Hampton from that small inspired beginning. The Bevin Bros. Mfg. Co. starting with three brothers, Abner, Chauncey, and William, later adding one more, Philo, would become the largest and through frugality, innovation, and doggedness survived the many changes in the industry. Because of environmental regulations the cast brass bells of the 1800s were no longer made there when the company burned down. Stamped steel bells were being made there, a process that had originated in East Hampton at the N N Hill Brass Mfg. Co. in the late 1800s. Stanley Bevin had recently said he hoped to see the Bevin Manufacturing Company celebrate its 200th anniversary.

      The Bevin family propped up many of the bell toy makers when they were floundering in the early 1900s. They eventually owned Gong Bell. Gong Bell Mfg. Co. was shut down when the Bevin family decided it was no longer profitable to be in the bell toy making business. The era of plastic toys, which Gong Bell had been slow to embrace, and foreign imports were blamed for the downfall of Gong Bell, though domestic completion was also fierce and probably equally responsible. Fisher Price was one of the few toy makers to weather the transitions. Competition was nothing new. In the 1800s complaints by bell and bell toy makers of East Hampton to Congress imposed tariffs on imports to protect these industries. Adapting to changing markets was also nothing new. During WWI no metal could be used on bell toys so the switch was made to wooden toys. Wood and lithographed paper would be a major component of later toys by Gong Bell. I had always hoped to see the Bevin archives to see if there were documents related to Gong Bell, N.N. Hill Brass, Starr Bros. and the other bell toy makers. We’ll never know now what we’ve lost. I think I know what the people of Egypt felt when the Library at Alexandria was destroyed. It’s a hollow pit in the stomach. It’s like knowing there’s someone that just died you had always hoped to know better.

      The Bevin family had given the land the museum sits upon to the Chatham Historical Society (CHS). Some of the items that had been in the office at Bevin were recently moved on loan to the CHS museum. If the building had not recently been expanded the display of some of those items from Bevin Mfg. Co. would not have been possible. It’s a wonderful but small snapshot through a very small window to what has been lost.

      I’ve only seen the outside of the Bevin factory. I had tried to see the inside but Stanley Bevin only responded once to my calls and letters. He called me and said, “Watrous, I’m going to sue you!” He went on to tell me how he had been sleigh riding down the hill toward near the railroad toward the Watrous house on Watrous Street and broke his leg. I protested that I’m not related to the David W. Watrous who built that house. (He was one of the founders of the East Hampton Bell Company and later founded the Watrous Manufacturing Co.) I’m related to the Clifford M. Watrous that worked at Gong Bell. He replied simply, “You’re all related!” I thought he was wrong, but I’ve come to see how there is a lot of truth in what he said. It seemed everyone in East Hampton was related by only a few degrees of separation. One could also say we were all related by a shared history. It’s this relationship that makes the Bevin factory loss personal to so many.

      Matt Bevin recently told a reporter that he will try to make bells again in East Hampton, Belltown. I wish him and the Bevin family and all the workers there success. Thinking of East Hampton the Belltown, without an ongoing bell making industry rings hollow. I hope the can-do Yankee ingenuity spirit lives on with a new generation of Bevin manufacturing.

      I’ve posted some photos that I took before the fire and some post card images of the Bevin factory under the Blogs page of my web site: http://belltoys.ning.com/profiles/blog/list

    • #17007
      Carolyn Whitlock

      Bevin Brothers Return To Bell-Making After Devastating Fire
      East Hampton Company Making Handbells For Salvation Army

      By ERIK HESSELBERG, Special to The Courant The Hartford Courant

      5:20 p.m. EDT, October 3, 2012

      A bronze ship’s bell, fresh from the foundry, was rung outside the Bevin Brothers bell company Wednesday to mark the resumption of bell-making in town.

      The tolling was sweet music for Matt Bevin, fifth generation bell-maker, who joined with U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal and Congressman Joe Courtney to celebrate the filling of his first big order – a shipment of Salvation Army handbells – since the May fire that destroyed his 180-year-old business. Since then, Bevin and 14 of his 27 employees have been working out of temporary quarters in an a former bottle factory at 17 Watrous St., not far from where the 1880s Bevin Brothers building stood.

      An emotional Bevin accepted the ship’s bell, also called a yacht bell, from its producers, Sher Hertzler of Mystic River Foundry, and engineers and technicians from Deep River’s Interpro, which makes molds and prototypes for a variety of applications. Interpro’s Kevin Dyer said he wanted the bell — based on a design still made by Bevin — to be an inspiration for employees struggling to get back on their feet.
      [Sample Our Free Breaking News Alert And 3 P.M. News Newsletters]

      “We wanted to make a bell to ring to let you know we are with you,” Dyer said. “You have inspired a sense of purpose.”

      The bell is inscribed with the words “On the Wings of Hope, the Dream Lives on in Belltown, U.S.A.”

      Bevin said since his company restarted production in late summer, it has turned out some 50,000 bells, including brass handbells and cowbells like the ones rung by crowds at ski races. In the past, the company produced more than 1 million bells annually of 100 different varieties, including heirloom-style sleigh bells, cow bells and scores of small handbells.

      Blumenthal and Courtney both used Wednesday’s ceremony to tout American manufacturing and preserving American jobs in the face of foreign competition.

      “Today is the resurrection of a great American story,” Blumenthal said. “Bevin Brothers was given up for dead. We are [ensuring] that America’s bells will be made in America. Made in American really rings true.”

      Bevin Brothers factory was destroyed in a massive fire on May 29. A lightning strike is believed to have sparked the blaze. Bevin has pledged to rebuild on the same site, but has not given a timeline, saying his top priority is getting back to limited production. In June, the company received a $100,000 grant from the state Department of Economic Development as part of the state’s Small Business Express program.

      The company is the last of East Hampton’s famed bell factories that earned the town the title of “Belltown U.S.A. The company was once a world leader in the manufacture of sleigh bells and is credited with making the first bell used on a bicycle and inventing the chiming bells of Good Humor ice cream trucks. Bevin Brothers even made the tinkling bell heard in Frank Capra’s “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

      Copyright © 2012, The Hartford Courant

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