Welcome to the ABA! Bell Talk Forums Bell Foundries, Manufacturers and Artisans Mosean Bell Foundary – Baltimore, MD

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    • #11977

      Hello Everyone,

      I am very new to your wonderful website, bells and bell history. I belong to a very small ELCA church on the shores of Lake Superior in Knife River, MN. Today I and two other brave members made a long anticipated ascent up into the church bell tower to see first hand what was on the other end of that rope we pull every Sunday morning. None of the more elder members seemed to know much about how and when the bell became part of the church……..and it was not always a Lutheran church. Knife River is a small village with a strong history of logging and fishing. What we found was a bell with an estimated diameter of about 30 – 36″ inscribed as follows: Mosean Bell Foundary – Baltimore, MD – 1889. Above the lettering was a trade mark seal that was hard to make out……we could only make out the words “Trade” and “Mark” on each end of the seal.

      I’m hoping someone will be able to provide some insight as to where to go to learn about the history of this foundary and bells of this period of history in general.

      Thank you very much and looking forward to learning more,

      Scott Jasperson
      Knife River, MN

    • #16810

      Reading inscriptions on tower bells is often difficult because of many years’ accumulation of dirt, bird droppings, etc. I think that in this case the bell was mis-read. It should be “McShane Bell Foundry”, because McShane used a trademark which fits the description. That trademark has the shape of a slightly squashed hexagon, and between the two words which Scott mentioned are two bell shapes, arranged as if swinging. The combined 4-line inscription (trademark, name, place, year) should appear on the waist of the bell.

      I cannot think of any other bell foundry which used a trademark of any kind on their bells, though almost all of the makers of bronze bells put their names on them. A few others used the waist placement, but it was more common to put the maker’s name and city in the shoulder band.

    • #16811

      Thank you so much for your reply Carl. After doing lots of searching in historic Baltimore records and bell manufacturers on line, your response seems to make sense ….given the fact the inscription was quite tarnished and we were only using the daylight coming through the bell tower louvres. After reading your description of the McShane Trademark and then looking at my photo again, I now can make out exactly what you are describing……..strange how it stood out when I knew what to look for.

      I did find the McShane Bell Foundary website and was interested to read their history. Knife River was just beginning to become a railroad and logging center about 1886…..so the date (1889) makes sense……although the chruch was a Presbyterian Church at that time. If there are any books or articles you can direct me to regarding the history of the McShane Bell Foundary and how one would go about cleaning a bell like this (if at all) I would appreciate it. I’m not even sure if it is brass or steel….as we did not give it the magnet test. As I mentioned, I am really new to bells. At least when I pull the rope tommorrow morning at 8:20 AM…….I will know what is at at the other end and where it came from.

      Once again, thanks so much for your help. It is nice to have this part of the mystery solved. It would be fun to know if it came to Knife River by boat on the Great Lakes or by rail……I guess that may be our next challenge.

      Sincerely yours,
      Scott Jasperson

    • #16812

      Your bell is bronze – approximately 80% copper and 20% tin. (Brass is copper and zinc.) The fittings are mostly cast iron.

      I strongly recommend NOT attempting to polish the bell, because that destroys the patina of age. Gentle cleaning of dirt, grease or bird residues won’t harm the patina.

      Probably there was rail service to Duluth by 1889, so that’s the most likely route for the bell to have taken.

    • #16813
      Carolyn Whitlock


      If you go to the top of any page on the “Bell Talk” Forum, you will find a box with an icon of a magnifying glass that says “Search…” in it. If you write in “cleaning bronze bells” and click on “Search” in the box to the right, you will find that there are 7 pages of links to places on this forum where there have been discussions of cleaning bronze bells.

      FYI, I think Carl has given you good advice!


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