Need help regarding Stuckstede bell
March 19, 2011 at 7:05 pm #11731AnonymousInactive
I’m pastor of St. John UCC in Aurora IL (est.1886). As we celebrate our 125th year, I am writing a history of the church for our culminating celebration. I am not looking for an appraisal on our church bell but wonder if you might know the answers to some questions as I seek some history about this bell.
I can send photos for the purpose of seeing the inscription which says: Cast by H. Stuckstede & Co. S t . Louis M o EV S t . Johannis Gemeinde Aurora Ills 1891. I connected with a descendant of the bell foundry in hopes of locating some early correspondence regarding the order and purchase of the bell.
But I am confused about the name and date of the company. BTW–I appreciate the Stuckstede info on your website! On another site: http://www.emporis.com/application/?nav=company&lng=3&id=158607 it says: “This foundry was began by J.G.Stuckstede, and operated under several different names: J.G.Stuckstede & Co. (1855-63), J.G.Stuckstede & Bro. (1863-83), H.Stuckstede & Co. (1883-1888), The Henry Stuckstede Bell Foundry Company (1889-1931). It was the largest of several bell foundries which operated in this city, and is not to be confused with Stuckstede & Bro. (1890-1961), which was operated by two nephews of Henry Stuckstede and their descendants.”
Our bell has the company name corresponding to the earlier dates (1883-1888) but the bell is clearly dated 1891 and the company’s name was changed. Do you think this other website is in error about the dates? In addition, we’re thinking the bell may need a good Look-see and check up. It works fine but there’s no record showing any maintenance done on it. (We think that it was the job of a trustee who died more than 25 years ago!) Any input from you would be helpful and appreciated! Blessings, Rev. Cyndi
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.
March 20, 2011 at 7:50 pm #16317Carl Scott ZimmermanParticipant
Rev. Cyndi, your church bell is not the only one to bear a mystifying combination of maker’s name and date. I’ve found about a dozen others, dated 1889-1891, that still bear the name “H. Stuckstede & Co.” In fact, the earliest appearance of “Hy Stuckstede B F Co” (or variants thereof) on any bell that I’ve found is associated with the year 1892.
The Stuckstede foundry history which you found on the emporis.com Website was supplied by me, and it is based on the names which are found in the St.Louis city directories of the period. (Such directories were published annually in most major American cities in the 19th century, and they are the predecessors of the 20th century telephone books.) The name “The Henry Stuckstede Bell Foundry Co.” first appears in the 1888 directory, and in that same directory Henry’s occupation is for the first time given as “secretary” (what we would now call the CEO) of that company.
Why the company kept putting the old organizational name on their bells for four years after they were incorporated I do not know, and probably never will. It’s an interesting mystery!
From your description, I deduce that the year of casting was part of the custom inscription (which appears on the waist of the bell) rather than part of the maker’s inscription (around the shoulder of the bell), where it would have appeared in the absence of any custom inscription. Undoubtedly you know from your church history the meaning of that custom inscription; but other readers of this forum might not. “Ev. St.Johannis Gemeinde” is German for “Evangelical St.John Congregation”, and when it was established in 1886 it might have been an independent church in a settlement of evangelical German immigrants. Such churches were common across not only Illinois but much of the farmland of the midwest, and St.John was the most common name given to them. Some of those churches eventually joined the Missouri Synod Lutherans, while others did as yours must have done, joining the Evangelical Synod of North America. In 1934, the Evangelical Synod merged with the Reformed Church of America to form the Evangelical & Reformed Church (commonly called E&R). In 1961, that denomination merged with the Congregational Christian churches of North America to form the United Church of Christ, or UCC.
Also in that inscription, “Ills” is an old abbreviation for Illinois.
Other versions of the histories of the two Stuckstede bellfoundries can be found on http://www.gcna.org and http://www.towerbells.org, both of which I maintain. (The latter will have to move soon, because AT&T will soon stop hosting personal Websites for its residential customers.) I really must update all of them to provide their visitors with the sort of clarification I’ve given above.
If you have specific questions about maintenance etc., just write to me. My advice is free!
Incidentally, I would guess that your church bell is still rung by hand. That old tradition is most prevalent among churches which were founded by evangelical German immigrants in the mid 19th century (now mostly Lutheran or UCC, with a few Methodist). I theorize that the German evangelical culture included an attitude (pehaps subconsciously) that the ringing of the church bell is not just a method of signaling but is in itself a service to God. Thus it was not something to be mechanized, as happened in most other denominations.
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