How old are these bells, please?
October 21, 2008 at 11:57 pm #10989AnonymousInactive
Donna in Maine writes:
I found these bells in the same hole while metal detecting. I have been looking for a website where I can date bells because I find them often. I have been unsuccessful so far. These 2 bells were found on a road that had been utilized since at least 1770s. It is now just an old wooded road, partially used by ATVs and snowmobiles. The dingers were inside when I found them but when I soaked the dirt out of them the dingers fell out. The loop that held them in had been completely corroded and the dingers were being held in there by the dirt. Is there any way to tell how old these bells are? I’m thinking they can’t be that old, but I have no idea. Any help would be greatly appreciated. The larger bell stands 2 3/8 inches tall and is 2 7/8 inches in diameter. The smaller bell is 1 3/8 inches tall and 2 1/8 inches in diameter. http://i77.photobucket.com/albums/j53/ccsnowy/Bells.jpg
If you can help, please post a response.
This inquiry was originally sent to the ABA’s Internet Coordinator. Responses are opinions of individuals based on their personal research and knowledge.
October 22, 2008 at 12:40 am #14161
Well, I decided to sign up here at your forum. I’ve been browsing and this is a pretty cool place. Thanks for having me!
I should note, here, that these bells have no markings or lettering anywhere on them.
Notice the “weld” job at the top of the smaller bell… and I thought the single ring around the bottom would help determine its age, but I’m not sure. I don’t know much about bells… I just find them! 😀
Any help would be greatly appreciated.
October 22, 2008 at 2:35 pm #14162
Given the size of these bells, their design, and that they were found under an ol road, they are probably part of a set of hanging Shaft Bells. These were usually part of a set of 4 bells that were mounted on a 3 inch wide leather strap and held to the shafts of a carriage or sleigh. They would be from the mid-1800s. They provided a melodic noise as the carriage or sleigh was bouncing down the road and let others know that they might encounter a vehicle going the opposite direction. They provided a warning to oncoming traffic that helped avoid collisions. The horses also may have been adorned by sleigh bells, rump bells, hayme bells, saddle chimes, etc. for similar purposes. You may wish to consult
where you can find information about most horse bells.
Harry Long, MD
October 22, 2008 at 4:29 pm #14163
I’ve reviewed the site classicbells and learned a few things.
Your response makes me wonder why the strap might have broken, and if there are other bells in the immediate area.
Any idea what type of metal it would be? Pewter maybe?
October 22, 2008 at 6:40 pm #14164
They are bronze. The bells were held to the larger strap by a small leather strap that ran through the loop at the crown and took a terrible beating with the movement of the shafts. The leather frequently broke and the bells would fall off. Later shaft bells were gong shaped, usually had 3-4 bells, and were riveted to a strap steel “Harp” and was bolted to the top of the shaft. They usually had 3-4 clappers and were much more durable. These were manufactured by N N Hill & Bevin Brothers through the late 1800s-1960s and are widely available. Pewter is soft and clunky and is not used for any functional bells. Pressed Brass gongs have been used but do not have the tone of a good bronze bell. By placing various size bells on the shaft, the effect was that of a tuned set that provided a very melodic chord when rung.
Harry Long, MD
October 23, 2008 at 11:33 am #14165
Very interesting information. Thanks, Harry.
I enjoy learning the history of items ~ how and why they were designed and utilized the way they were at different time periods.
They may be unimportant details to some, but I enjoy learning them. 😉
October 23, 2008 at 8:39 pm #14166
October 24, 2008 at 12:56 am #14167
Now that’s pretty neat! Looks like it would be mounted between 2 horses…
Gonna check that site out more tomorrow… gotta hit they hay for tonight!
October 26, 2008 at 11:29 pm #14168
Harry, do you think you might be able to tell us anything about the bell pictured here:
October 27, 2008 at 3:24 am #14169Carolyn WhitlockParticipant
This bell looks like a shaft bell to me. It would have had three clappers inside the bell and have a nice, mellow sound. The top of the bell would have been attached to a piece of metal and probably was part of a three or four bell set.
Stay warm up there in Maine!
October 27, 2008 at 12:31 pm #14170
I agree with Carolyn. This bell is a gong shaped bell and the two light clappers suggest that this was either part of a saddle chime or a shaft chime. The shape of the bell is very typical of those manufactured by N N Hill Co and later by Bevin Brothers Bell Manufacturing and were used on their Roman Catholic Alter Chimes, Saddle Chimes and Shaft Chimes. Its age is harder to determine as these bells were made continuously from the late 1800s to the 1960s. It is amazing what can be found with a metal detector.
Harry Long, MD
October 29, 2008 at 8:52 pm #14171
Thanks for the info!
We’ve found some of these gong shaped bells before but could never figure out what they were used for.
Yeah, you’d be surprised at some of the things we pull from the ground, especially here in New England. It’s fun!
It’s cold up here… winter is setting in fast. The hand made family quilts are donned along the back of the sectional and on the beds.
Movie night is cozy here. 🙂
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