Welcome to the ABA! Bell Talk Forums Large Bells Riverboat Bell authentication.

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    • #27265

      Hi folks,

      Our church, St. George’s Episcopal Church in Bismarck N.D. is believed to have a tower bell from the riverboat Red Cloud. There is a plaque in at the base of the tower commemorating this and historical church records corroborate the story.

      It is believed that our bell was salvaged from the Red Cloud after it foundered near Fort Peck Montana in 1882.

      The Red Cloud was built in 1873 and served the upper reaches of the Missouri river from 1877 to 1882. The bell was first installed in our original stick-built church probably in the mid 1880’s. It was reinstalled in our current church building in the early 1950’s.

      The only markings on the bell is KAYE LOUISVILLE. There are also cherub-type figures cast into a band on the bell. These figures are similar to the figures on the Clayborn Temple Bell in Memphis.

      Our bell is almost 27 inches across the bottom and about 20 inches high. We could find no dates or other markings.

      The swinging/crank mechanism is laying on the floor of our tower unused along with the supports and clapper. There is a motor-driven striking mechanism with two hammers in use now. The yolk is attached to the bell but it does not support the bell.

      There are a few period pictures of the Red Cloud but since they are from before the turn of the century, are pretty unclear. One in particular shows the bell pretty well. (Complete with what looks to be an elk rack mounted above it!) To my eye, the swinging mechanism and shape of the yolk look to be consistent with the pieces in our bell tower.

      Is there any other way to date and/or authenticate this bell? Is our current bell consistent with its story and period picture?

      Thanks in advance, Tom Hopkins, Bismarck ND.

      • This topic was modified 1 year, 11 months ago by toms68cst.
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    • #27278

      In my opinion, this is a genuine William Kaye bell, of the period appropriate to have been first used on the steamboat Red Cloud. William Kaye’s bellfoundry was located in Louisville, Kentucky, on the Ohio River, and probably provided many bells for steamboats. Some of those bells were recycled onto other steamboats following a crash or a sinking, but others undoubtedly made their way to nearby communities and were put to use as church bells. Certainly there are documented examples of that happening in the Saint Louis region, from boats that had operated on the Mississippi and/or Missouri rivers.

      Unlike most American bellfounders, William Kaye did not generally date his bells, which makes historical investigations such as this somewhat more difficult.

    • #27286

      Thank you Mr. Zimmerman. Your post has been a big help.

      I have looked at quite a few period Steamboat pictures online over the last few days. The shape of the Red Cloud’s bell yolk seems pretty unique from what I’ve seen. the Red Cloud is also the only Steamboat I noticed with a round bell crank. The scale of the bell is also consistent. It looks to be a little larger than the size of a man’s shoulders.

      It seems pretty conclusive that we have the Red Cloud’s main deck bell.

      Thanks again, Tom Hopkins

      • This reply was modified 1 year, 11 months ago by toms68cst.
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