Welcome to the ABA! Bell Talk Forums Small Bells Need some help dating this Dinner Bell

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    • #25603

      First off, I love the website. I’ve collected or have been given items over the years and I usually find myself on websites dedicated to those items. Always full of the nicest and most helpful people I’ve ever come across on forums.

      So, not much is known about this bell. My Dad, whom I received it from, said it was his Grandmother’s dinner bell when he was a kid in Hattiesburg MS. He doesn’t know how old it is, but did say older than him and he is 71. It is 3 5/8 inch wide and 3 inch tall. The clapper is gone. Dad said it wasn’t a round clapper but more long and attached to the piece of copper wire inside. I asked him about the pitting and he guessed it was probably sand casted when it was made.
      There are three of the american eagle symbols and three of the shooting stars symbols on it.

      Thanks for any information you guys may have.

    • #25604


      Alright, I give up. How do I post a picture on here? Never had tinypic not work.

      • This reply was modified 3 years, 3 months ago by Staff.
    • #25608

      Restriction of 512KB. Does your “tiny pic” exceed that requirement? There also may be a limit to how many at one time. If still problems, contact Carolyn Whitlock.

    • #25634

      Hello matt242, thanks for your kind words.

      With regard to your pictures …
      The maximum file size you can upload is 512KB
      The simplest website for resizing that I have found is …
      Browse to where your picture is located
      Click Open, image will upload to picresize website
      Click Continue
      Leave all default settings as they are
      Scroll down to bottom
      In step 4 “Save As” – enter 512 in MaxFilesize box
      Click I’m Done, Resize My Picture
      Click Save to Disk
      Click Save, this will save the resized picture to your Downloads file
      You will find the picture renamed as rsz_original name

      Look forward to seeing your pictures and hopefully someone will be able to give you information.

    • #25661

      Here we go, pictures are resized. and I added the bell mount that has been with it seemingly from the beginning.

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    • #25666


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    • #25676
      Carolyn Whitlock


      This appears to be a U.S. Cavalry Camel bell and is in poor condition. Obviously, the handle is broken. The clapper is not original and, of course, is incomplete.

      You may want to do a computer search for images and history of the U.S. Camel Corps. Wikipedia has some interesting facts about the Camel Corps. Wikipedia’s article begins with, “The United States Camel Corps was a mid-nineteenth century experiment by the United States Army in using camels as pack animals in the Southwestern United States. While the camels proved to be hardy and well suited to travel through the region, the Army declined to adopt them for military use. The Civil War interfered with the experiment and it was eventually abandoned; the animals were sold at auction.”

      This would indicate that your bell is pre-Civil War. The condition of your bell may be due to its being “lost in the field” and buried for many years before found, hence a possible reason for the pitting.

      You may want to check on on-line auction sites to see how much sellers are asking.

      One more thing, I have a few of these bells and they are not all the same size. Yours looks like it is the “standard” size. Also, being an animal bell, it is highly unlikely that the mounting bracket is original to the bell.

      Hope this helps!


      U.S. Cavalry Bell

      In the late 1850s, camels were imported by the U.S. Army under the direction of Secretary of State Jefferson Davis and used to transport supplies to army posts in the southwest. Although this experimental use of camels for a mounted cavalry unit failed after only a few years, bells made by the Starr Brothers Bell Co. of Connecticut that were supposedly used on these “ships of the desert” have become quite collectible. Whether this bell ever served as the actual camel bell has not been fully authenticated, however many replicas identifying it as such were successfully manufactured and sold by a bell foundry in California. 4.25” high. – Collectible Bells, Treasures of Sight and Sound by Donna S. Baker, 1998, Schiffer Publishing Ltd.

      U.S. Army Cavalry Bell.
      Also known as a horse bell, this bell was used when the animals were hobbled at night. By placing the bell on one of the animals, it would give a quick warning if the animal was spooked by something or somebody. It is also believed that some of the bells were placed on camels during the experiments conducted in our western deserts in the late 1850’s to see if camels might be used to carry supplies to forts. The bell is made of bronze and is elaborately decorated with a shield and sunburst design that is repeated three times on the bell. – http://www.infantry.army.mil/museum/inside_tour/photo_tour/06_case100.htm

      Before the Civil War, the army bought twenty or so camels and sent them out west to see if they could be used more effectively than mules as pack animals. They outperformed the mules, but they spit and bit and kicked and stank, and the mule drivers refused to work with the camels. The camels were released into the desert and the experiment was terminated. – Fayetteville, AR, area museums – Hammond Bell Museum, commentary by visitor. http://users.aristotle.net/~russjohn/museums/fvmuseum.html

      23MCW – RARE U.S. CAVALRY CAMEL BELL. More Photos Originally made for U.S. Army Camel Corps introduced by Secretary of War Jefferson Davis in the 1850’s. During the Civil War, the Army apparently used these bells with Cavalry horses (see Lord’s “Civil War Collector’s Encyclopedia”), and then, after the C.W., the Army apparently used them on mule pack trains which followed expeditions against the Indians, as evidenced by one being dug at Ft. Apache Arizona. Made in at least 3 sizes, the largest definitely for the Camels. These are really hard to find. This is the largest – 4 3⁄4” wide at the mouth, and 4 1⁄2” high. Cast in silvery brass and with the Army Coat of Arms in raised design in three places on the sides, separated by sunbursts under stars. Sand cast, so detail is not great, but still very handsome, and has a remarkably brilliant and beautiful tone. Top has wide, rectangular belt loop for strap around neck. Fine condition. Just a super find. $475 – http://www.andersonmilitaria.com/Web_Pages/misc/mexwar/mexican.htm

    • #25687

      Thank you for such a helpful and comprehensive reply.
      Most interesting.

    • #25691
      Carolyn Whitlock

      You’re welcome, Dave. I wish more people would share their knowledge via the ‘Bell Talk’ Forum! When we find out stories about the origin and use of our bells, it makes the hobby far more interesting!

      Thank you for the work you do as the ABA Internet Coordinator! I know it’s a time-consuming job. It’s people like you and your wife, Joan, who do so much for the good of our cause!


    • #25703

      Thank you so much for your response Carolyn. After scouring the internet I was able to find out some new information. It’s hard to tell if this is a reproduction or one that was made in the 1800’s. Of course every example I see online claim to be an original. I can’t find a single example of a bell where the seller states this is a reproduction so I can compare them.

      One bell I see over and over is the bell that has a star printed on the top:

      When I do see the bell with a start on top it is usually in very good condition and of course claims to be an original. But it sure seems very ornate to be used for herding camel or tying to their necks, or whatever they used them for. Who knows, but I’ll definitely do some more digging.

      But in all I got what I was looking for, some form of timeline I can go back and tell my Dad. I’ll probably just go with the story of it was made in the 1850’s for camel herding. He’ll like that.

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    • #25705
      Carolyn Whitlock

      Matt, I’m glad you were able to do some further research and found new information!

      I did a search on this ‘Bell Talk’ Forum and found out something I did not know about the Cavalry Bell. A posting was made by a woman in Minnesota that says:

      To my knowledge the 1850’s bells under the direction of Sec of State Jefferson Davis were made by the Starr Brothers Bell Co. of Connecticut. In the late 1920’s & early 1930’s Mrs. Forbes made a replica at her CA Bell Co. in a larger size 4 1/2″ x 4 3/4″ with the 5 point star on top. Either bell would be a nice collectors item but if truly one of the U.S. Army bells then is should have a greater value.

      Ardis Copple of the MN Chapter ABA group

      The California Bell Company bought Mrs. Forbes foundry and is still in operation today. The current owner is John Kolstad, a friend of the ABA. You will find the contact information for the California Bell Company on their website at http://www.californiabell.com/. They may be able to solve this mystery!

      You might also want to do an online search for Mrs. A.S.C. Forbes to learn more about this female bell founder who originated the famous El Camino Real Bells in California. It sounds like she was quite a gal!

      My U.S. Cavalry Camel Bells all have the stars on top. Comparing the condition of your bell to mine, I would say that it is likely that mine were made by Forbes and not by Starr Brothers Bell Co.

    • #25717
      Carolyn Whitlock

      Hi, Matt,

      I’ve just come across some more information that will help with the mystery of whether all U.S. Cavalry Camel Bells are originals or if some are reproductions! The California Bell Company sells a book entitled

        A Guide to the Historic Bells of Mrs. A.S.C. Forbes

      with additional information on The California Bell Company, written by Max Kurillo and Erline M. Tuttle. I have discovered the following information included in this book:

      In 1854, the United States Congress passed an appropriation of $30,000 for the purchase of seventy-five camels to be bought in Egypt and Arabia for use in transporting army supplies across the desert between Texas, New Mexico, and California. The purchase was made by army officers and the camels shipped via the storeship Supply to Texas. Half of the herd was sent for use in the Gadsder. Purchase project and the two other half went first to Albuquerque, New Mexico, and later was transferred for service between points in the southwest country and California. They were place in charge of Lieut. E. F. Beale. The head herdsmen were Greek George and Philip Todro, known as Hi Jolly. Provisions and Army supplies were carried by camels from Fort Yuma via Los Angeles in Fort Tejon in the Tehachri mountains. They passed through Los Angeles every few weeks. Headquarters for them was in Sycamore grove. The project was not considered a success, due partially at least, to ignorance on the part of the Mexican drivers and herders, who were not familiar with the needs and habits of these beasts ‘o burden…


      The leading camel of the herd wore a bell decorated with a special U.S. Army design of a spread eagle with arrows, stars, and sunburst, also a five pointed star on the top of the bell. The general herd of camels wore a cluster of three small bells, cup-shaped in design and plain. Camels like bells, they also like to stray away in search of food and water. The bells assist in locating them. Two of the eagle beels have been preserved. One is in the bell collection of the late Frank A. Miller, of Mission Inn, Riverside, California, and the other is the property of Mr. Scott, Baldwin Park.

      Mrs. A. S. C. Forbes, Bell-maker, has made an exact replica of both the eagle bell and the cluster of cup bells.

      As you can see in the picture below of my U.S. Army Camel Bell, it has the star on the top so I am going to presume it was made by Mrs. A. S. C. Forbes of the California Bell Company. I am appreciative for your questions that have helped me do further research on my bells.


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    • #25744

      Hello Matt

      I did a search on our index of past Bell Tower magazines and found one article in the May-Jun 1994 issue about Camel Bells. This could be of interest ??

      May I suggest that you consider joing ABA to share your interest

      Membership & Subscription


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