Old family bell
April 23, 2008 at 7:34 am #10682
This is a bell passed down through the family for generations. It appears to be a sand-cast copper alloy. (The corrosion is green.) I have been unable to find anything similar. It has a starburst pattern of thirteen stars, one of which is centered above the rest.The remaining twelve are not centered, leaving an empty space on the right-hand side They surround an eagle. Below the eagle are four more stars, for a total of seventeen stars. It weighs about fourteen pounds, including the hammered iron bar on which it is mounted. The clapper is also iron. The base is about 14 inches across and it is about 14 inches high. I cannot find any other markings. Any information would be greatly appreciated.
Please note that I have found all measurements to be incorrect
oops, corrected below,
Greg Cook 04/30/08
April 28, 2008 at 2:55 pm #13315hjlongMember
This is clearly an interesting bell. I have not seen another like it. The yoke is primitive and typical of those of the early 1800s. The bell relief is obviously commemorating the original 13 states. Therefore the bell was probably cast to commemorate an important anniversary of the founding of the US such as the 50th in 1826 or the Centennial in 1876.
Harry Long, MD
April 28, 2008 at 4:24 pm #13314AnonymousInactive
Identifying bells can be a lot of fun and a whole lot of time-consuming work. Let us get started. First things first, tell us about the family generations, who passed it to whom AND WHEN, this is probably the most important step in identifying the bell. If those records cannot be found then we do it another way. We need more info on the bell, lets start with measuring the bell.
1) How high is it from the bell lip to the head of the bell (measure vertical).
2) Height of the mounting pad from the bell head (top of the bell), how wide and thick is it. 3) measure the outside of the bell at the bottom row of stars, then lay the bell down and get two straws or small pieces of wood hold them together and pull them outward till they touch the bells inner side near where the outside was measured, pull out and measure, subtract this from the outside measurement, now we know the approx. thickness.
4) How is the bell mounted to the cross bar, can it be separated, measure and photograph everything.
5) Is the cross bar and attachment point magnetic, check all parts, not just one place.
6) Pay very close attention to the connection surface between the bell head and the mounting pad; take close-up pictures of the mating surfaces all around.
7) Look at the thickness of the mounting pad, are there any marks on the outside edges or down the middle of it, take pictures of all the exposed surfaces.
8.) Take this bell to a super market and they will weight it. We will calulate the weight later.
9) Go back to the mounting pad. Project the thickness of the mounting pad straight down over the outside of the bell, do this on both sides, are there any seam marks in the projected area. Is any of the design in this area? Take full pictures of the bell showing the mounting pad edges and the side of the bell.
Let us stop at this point and gather all the information together and post it for comment, the next stage will be a little more difficult. Most important HAVE FUN. Max Kurillo
This inquiry was originally sent to the ABA’s Internet Coordinator. Responses are opinions of individuals based on their personal research and knowledge.
April 30, 2008 at 10:31 pm #13316
Thank you for the replies. I hate to admit it, but the measurements I used were from memory and apparently that wasn’t a good idea. Here are the measurements.
1. From the lip to the head of the bell is 7″. With the mounting pad it is 10″.
2. The mounting pad is 3″ high, 2.5″ across the front,1″ wide at the bottom, and .25″ wide at the top.
3. The outside at the bottom row of stars is 5″ across. The inside is 4.75″.
4. The cross bar looks like it has been split, with the mounting pad through the split. The yoke is through the mounting pad and cross bar, with threads showing on the opposite side. I would be afraid to try to take it apart.
5. The cross bar, yoke, clapper, and mounting for the clapper are affected by magnets, nothing else is.
6. The mounting pad looks as if it has been reenforced with a weld or welded onto the head.There is no difference in coloration in any of it and the connection does not affect a magnet.
7. I see no marks on the mounting pad that mean anything to me.
8. The bell weighs 17.5 pounds, all included.
9. I see no seams, inside or out. There a couple of small points of excess metal toward the bottom.They are close to an imaginary line below the edge of the mounting pad.
10. Now the bad news; The bottom from lip to lip is only 8.75″.[attachment=2:2zshxl6n]bell top back close.jpg[/attachment:2zshxl6n][attachment=1:2zshxl6n]bell clapper close.jpg[/attachment:2zshxl6n][attachment=0:2zshxl6n]bell top.jpg[/attachment:2zshxl6n]
April 30, 2008 at 10:57 pm #13313
My father got it from his grandfather, Josiah William Grable, who was born in 1878 in Harrison County, Indiana and died in 1974 in Harrison County, Indiana. Josiah got it from his father’s widow, Mary S.( Littell) Grable (1838-1911), who brought it to Josiah’s farm after her husband, David Grable Jr., passed away in 1908. There was a small chip at the lip that occurred at the Grable farm, after which it was no longer used for fear of additional damage. Mary got it from her father, Josiah Littell, born on July 22, 1797 in Tennessee. He died on June 26, 1866 in Harrison County, Indiana. He was married to Mary S. Long, who was born on June 6, 1807 in Kentucky and died on Nov. 04, 1899 in Harrison County. They were married on March 29, 1827 in Harrison County, Indiana. The Littells are believed to have come to Indiana around 1815. It is not known from whom or when Josiah Littell or his wife Mary received the bell. His parents, Reuben and Elizabeth (Gormley) Littell were from Virginia State and Cumberland, Pennsylvania respectively. Her parents, Levi and Susannah (Elliott) Long were from parts unknown. Levi’s father, John E. Long (Dec. 25, 1755-May 21, 1828), was from Louisa County, Virginia. John’s wife, Delilah (Elliott) Long (Feb. 13, 1765-Sept. 12, 1844) and he are buried at Highfills burying Ground in Harrison County, Indiana. He is a recognized American Revolutionary Soldier.
Thanks, Greg[attachment=2:32sixxf7]bell top side 1.jpg[/attachment:32sixxf7][attachment=1:32sixxf7]bell side2.jpg[/attachment:32sixxf7][attachment=0:32sixxf7]bell back right.jpg[/attachment:32sixxf7]
May 1, 2008 at 12:19 pm #13317hjlongMember
The additional photos add considerably. This is an old bell. The yoke is primitive and shows the work of a blacksmith in fashioning it. I would guess that this bell is from the early 1800s and probably commemorates the Revolution. I would guess that it was cast for the 50th anniversary in 1826. The family history is interesting as I am a Long and my mother was an Elliott.
Harry Long, MD
May 2, 2008 at 7:13 am #13312
I had considered the chance that, with the total number of stars being 17, it could have something to do with Ohio becoming a State. That would place it at 1803. I really have no idea. The thirteenth star not being in line with rest of the pattern doesn’t seem right for that. I’ve been trying to figure it out for years.
May 4, 2008 at 6:10 am #13318maxkurilloParticipant
Greg, The pictures were very good and your family history was outstanding, this is indeed an old bell. I think you are correct concering the mounting pad being brazed on top of the bell. I would guess the bell would be 14lbs +/-. The wall thickness is quite thin indicating it was probably cast in a foundry. When I look at the eagle I think of the Confederate symbols, you can locate all kind of sites that may help you. As far as the stars are concerned, I think that the lone star at the top was to balance the design, nothing more. If this was a Confederate bell , were there ever 17 states in the South? I am not up on this part of US history, can someone help us. You will have to search all the sites you can think of, I have logged many hundreads of hours researching on the net, good luck, keep it fun. Max
May 5, 2008 at 10:52 pm #13319
Thanks Doc and Max,
I’m always open to suggestions. You’ve given me some ideas I hadn’t considered. If anyone has additional imput I would be grateful.
May 28, 2008 at 5:05 am #13320
I E-Mailed Carl Zimmerman, following his links on the Big Bell forum. He replied with the following, after which I asked for, and received permission to post.
Sorry about the delay in replying, but a retiree’s life can be hectically busy!
Thank you for your inquiry, and for the photos which you sent. While I cannot tell you who made your bell, I think I can tell you some other interesting things about it.
Old bronze bells the size of this one often don’t carry identification of the maker, as larger ones do. But because of the eagle and stars, I’m quite confident that it was made in the USA rather than being imported from Europe. It’s even possible that the 17 stars indicate that it was made during the period when the USA had 17 states. That would be between 1803 and 1812, which seems quite reasonable.
What you call a mounting pad is properly called the tang. It was not welded to the bell, but cast with it in one piece. What you interpret as welding traces are actually a reflection of how the false bell was shaped in the process of developing the mold from which the bell was cast. When you look inside the bell, you can see the that the clapper is suspended on a clapper staple. The roots of that staple are up inside the tang.
The clapper itself appears to be formed entirely of wrought iron, though it’s possible that only the shank is wrought iron and the ball was cast onto the end of it. You can tell the difference by looking at the transition between ball and shank – if there’s any evidence of a crack or joint, then the ball was cast on. Clearly the top of the clapper shank was fitted to the clapper staple by using blacksmithing methods – heat the top end of the shank until it’s red-hot and soft, hammer it flat and bend a partial hook in it, stick the hook through the staple and bend the hook into a closed loop before the iron cools. Now it’s permanently mounted! But there’s a lot of slop in that mounting, as you can see from the fact that the strike mark of the clapper against the bell goes all the way around the inside of the bell. Obviously this bell got a lot of use once upon a time.
The split bar into which the tang of the bell is inserted is obviously blacksmith work as well, as is the rope lever which does double duty as the mounting pin, bent in a U-shape. I’ve seen similar arrangements on other old small bells. What’s particularly unusual about yours is that it’s threaded on the short end. I imagine that originally it had two square nuts there; prior to the development of lock washers, it was common to jam two nuts together as a means of preventing them from coming loose. I doubt that there are any threads inside the blacksmith work or the tang; instead, the combination of wedging of the pin in the hold and a few years of minor corrosion have locked it in place so tightly that the eventual loss of the jam nuts had no real effect.
The wooden stand is obviously made with pieces that were cut using old technology. But my guess is that it’s not quite as old as the bell. I think that the bell got a lot of use in its early years, and the stand was made for it when it was taken down from its original position somewhere. My guess is that it wasn’t a church bell; but it could have been used as a signal bell at a fur trading post, for example.
Your family’s bell is so unusual that I can’t even make a guess as to its value. But its importance as an artifact is what makes it most valuable in my eyes.
I hope this helps; thanks again for the photos! I’d be interested in whatever information you acquire from other sources. And if you have more specific questions, just ask.”
I thought it was all so interesting that it should be shared. Thanks again Carl. I see how easy it is to become interested in bells.
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