Need help ID’ing a mystery bell
November 23, 2011 at 11:51 pm #11922
Hello all, first of all I would just like to convey how much help forums like this can provide to “laypersons” such as myself. So thank you.
I am helping a friend sell off a bunch of antique items to clear some room, most of which are auto related. So imagine my surprise when he drags out this large bell and says to sell it. I love a challenge and have been searching high and low for any similar bells for information on what we have. I have found absolutely nothing that resembles this exact bell and yoke. The yoke is a straight-across style which seems to be rare or nonexistent. I thought maybe someone had replaced an original horse-shoe shaped one with this, but the metal is so corroded it seems very old. I tried to take the yoke off to see if there are any markings on it but it is really stuck on there and I don’t want to risk damaging anything by forcing it. Would it be OK to use something like a steering wheel puller to take the yoke off?
I’m in Seattle if that helps for information. I have looked over every inch of it and cannot find any marking. I suppose the patina could be covering something, though. I have not found any vertical lines suggesting a modern casting, but do notice a brick-wall style pattern on the outside if that makes any sense. Here are the specs: 40 lbs, 12″ diameter bell, 8 1/4″ height (just bell), 11″ height total, and yoke is 21″ wide.
Since I really have no info it may help that I have a bunch of photos. Here are some of the better ones, let me know if I should post more. And sorry, I tried to post up large photos but I am limited to 400 pixels high and wide which is very small… ??
this last shot shows the only major flaw I can find, a crack that goes through the edge. I wonder if these are even repairable?
November 24, 2011 at 4:05 am #16666jackbellParticipant
The iron rod and rope pull are original. The bell is bronze and probably dates to the 1830-60 period. It could have been used on a church, school, fire station, farm or plantation, riverboat, or in any public place requiring a bell. More than likely it was not used on a locomotive (wrong mounting) or ocean vessel (stationary instead of swinging). Unfortunately, the sound of a bell cannot be restored once it’s cracked.
November 25, 2011 at 10:01 pm #16667
Thank you for the reply, jackbell. That’s a bit disheartening about the bell’s sound being forever altered with a crack. Would it still be safe to ring it? Or is that just risking worsening the damage? Also, I was wondering if bells with no foundry markings were common? Are those the “cheap” bells for places that couldn’t afford the really nice ones?
One of the main reasons I posted is to find out a general value on it. I know people do not like to give figures on antiques and collectibles because things are worth whatever someone is willing to pay, etc etc.. But I really have no idea what this bell might be worth. Initially I figured it may be worth a few hundred dollars, but after researching a bit I hope it is higher than that. I read somewhere on this forum a general rule for the bronze (or brass?) bell value is $100 per inch diameter of the mouth. That would make mine $1200 but that seems pretty high. Any ideas of a value range for this bell?
November 25, 2011 at 11:58 pm #16668jackbellParticipant
Lack of a foundry mark does not indicate lack of quality and bronze bells have always been more expensive than steel ones. For a collector the crack is major damage. Any of the other components can be replaced or repaired but not the bell itself. That estimate per inch is for bells intact. Since you are interested in selling, start it on eBay at a hundred and in a week you will know it’s current value.
November 28, 2011 at 8:56 pm #16669hjlong3Participant
Smaller bells were often made in quantity and were kept in inventory so they did not have the foundry name. The bell has some features suggesting a Stuckstede bell. The yoke is a bit unusual as it does not fold around the crown and may have been fabricated somewhat later than the original. The clapper attachment suggests a bell from the mid 19th century. Depending on how severely the tone is impacted by the crack, I would consider the value at bronze scrap value based on weight.
Harry Long, MD
December 20, 2011 at 5:18 am #16670
Thanks for the info and thoughts. I really hope it’s worth more than just scrap! I will try to sell Craigslist and then maybe eBay, and hopefully not the metal recyclers. This bell seems to be too cool to just waste like that. If it helps at all here is a video of me ringing it. I know it’s on jackstands but I was very careful not to upset it and didn’t ring it very hard.
December 20, 2011 at 3:35 pm #16671Carolyn WhitlockParticipant
We bell collectors hate to see any bell go to the scrap yard! hjlong3 and jackbell have been honest in their assessments of your bell. They have tried to place realistic expectations for you regarding value. Thanks for posting the video of the bell ringing. While I agree that the bell still has some life left in it, the next owner would have to handle it with “kid gloves”, too. It’s highly unlikely that a buyer would pay a regular retail price for a bell that is damaged.
They’ve done their best at giving you good information and advice, in my humble opinion!
January 27, 2012 at 5:04 pm #16672Carl Scott ZimmermanParticipant
It certainly is NOT a Stuckstede bell. Based on the tang mounting, straight wrought-iron headstock and cast-in clapper staple, I’d guess that it was made by an American artisan in the first half of the 19th century, but possibly even earlier.
The crack in the bell IS repairable, but only by a specialist. There is a firm in England which has done such work for many years, and at least one in Germany. I know of one American welder who has successfully repaired one bell, and another American firm which attempted a repair but failed.
Don’t try to detach the headstock! It’s original, and a repair won’t be.
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