Henry N Hooper Bell for Atlantic Mills, Prov., RI
July 1, 2019 at 3:32 pm #29378rihphcParticipant
I am researching a large bronze bell that is said to have come from a (now demolished) Atlantic Mills building in the Olneyville neighborhood of Providence, R.I.
12′ in diameter at the base
in raised letters: CAST BY HENRY N. HOOPER & COMPANY BOSTON 1851
engraved near the top: 1822 40
Short history: mounted in tower of Building #1 of Atlantic Mills (massive textile plant–see photo of Building #1 with bell in left tower). Used to call operatives to work and signal important events. For instance, I found an article about the bell ringing on 7/4/1905. Mill closed in 1953; building demolished in 1954 and bell acquired by Old Stone Bank. It was “reconditioned” by Gorham Manufacturing Co (also Providnece). It was put on display in the bank’s Olneyville Square branch. Now the branch is part of Citizens Bank, and the bell sits outside the back door. The Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council asked me for the history of the bell, so they may interpret it as part of planned infrastructure improvements.
I’m interested in specifics about this bell and/or good resources about factory bells. I appreciate your input, ABA Bell Talkers!
R.I. Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission
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July 1, 2019 at 5:48 pm #29379Carl Scott ZimmermanParticipant
It’s not 12 feet in diameter–perhaps that is the circumference?
The numbers 1822 and 40 were stamped, not engraved, after the bell was cast. I speculate that 1822 was the foundry’s measurement of the weight of the bare bell in pounds after cleanup, and 40 is the approximate diameter in inches.
It’s a nice example of Hooper’s work, but it’s a pity that the fittings of the bell were not preserved as well. I advise finding a way to hang it so that it can again be rung for special events.
It was fairly common for early factories to use bells like this for signalling shift changes, etc. For example, Sears, Roebuck & Co. listed factory bells in their very first general catalog in 1896, and continued to do so up to 1933. However, what they sold in that category was middle-sized steel bells (20 to 30 inches).
I’m not aware of anyone who has written specifically about patterns of usage of factory bells.
July 2, 2019 at 11:35 am #29380rihphcParticipant
Thanks for getting back to me, Carl.
Yes, circumference is 12′–and good to know what the 1822/40 means.
I’ll contact the Lowell National Park Service rangers, and some other local industrial historians as well. So far, I have found a couple poems about the unwelcome sound of factory bells.
Any other leads are appreciated.
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