Welcome to the ABA! Bell Talk Forums Small Bells U.S. Camel Bell, Starr Bros. East Hampton, CT., 1855

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    • #10393
      Anonymous
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      —posted originally on Bell Talk forum by “RD Dale” 1/7/05
      I have a U.S. Camel Corp, Camel Bell. The bell was cast by Starr Bros. of East Hampton, CT. between 1855 and 1864. Thee were 77 camels imported as an experiment of E.F. Beale and authorized by then Secretary of War, Jefferson Davis and Congress. The purpose was to use these camels to pack grain, water and other goods from Texas to Fort Defiance, CO. They were then used to make the trail from there to California. When the Civil War began the project was abandoned with the camels being auctioned off or released into the Southwest. The discription of the bell is as follows; The bell is solid brass, weighing approx. 3 lbs. the top measures 2-3/4″ and the bottom 4-3/4″ with a height of 4-3/4″. On the top there is a five pointed star covering the full surface with a oblong harness loop of the same width. The body of the bell has three spread winged eagles evenly spaced, with olive branch in left and four arrows in the right talons. In the spacing between the eagles there is a star down low with lines simulating a star burst with five stars at the ends in a half circle. This bell is in very good condition with all the embossed art castings clearly visible. The original clapper stem is in the bell minus the weight. Can anyone tell me of the rarity and possible value of the piece.

    • #12655
      Anonymous
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      Roger, There is NO written record that Starr Bros Co. made these specifically for the 1850s War Department camels (an experiment that didn’t pan out), nor has any record been found in the U.S. military records to support the Starr Bros. claim that they did so. Starr Bros. did make these bells up to 1925, but, by then, for sale in the general market. Starr was a supplier to Sears Robuck and may have been among the hundreds (or thousands) of bells sold by Sears in the early 1900s..

      We do know, however, that Mrs. A.C.S. Forbes, founder of the California Bell Company, made replicas of this bell and cast hundreds. These molds were formed by using what she claimed was an original bell as the pattern, so some degradation of the original detail on the surface resulted.

      Many of Mrs. Forbes’ bells and those of the Starr Bros. exist yet today –in unknown number. Many ABA members have one or more. They generally trade in the $40-50 range, but are seldom offered for sale because of their rarity. Minus the original clapper would detract some from the value of the one you have.

      To establish the one you have as an “original” Starr Bros. bell would require examination. ALSO, it is thought that the camels quite probably wore the bells they had in the country of their origin, and not any special American-made bell.

      —reply by “Bob Bamford” Internet Coordinator, ABAII on 1/9/05

    • #12656
      Anonymous
      Inactive

      I also have a pair of these bells and want to find out the value, for future sale. Thank you.

      —added post by “Karen Brownlie” 1/21/05

    • #12657
      Anonymous
      Inactive

      Gene in Missouri writes:

      I was doing research on the U.S. Camel Bell, Starr Bros. on the internet. I have in my possession, either a replica or the real thing. It was found in the midwest 20-30 years ago buried in the ground. I have found very little information on it. I was looking for someone to authenticate it. Do you have any recommendations?

      I have shared with Gene the following information that came in with an inquiry about these bells in May 2007:

      “You might need to add another layer of information which has nothing to do with age but might have something to with the bell. Mrs. A.S.C. Forbes founded the California Bell Company in 1908 and they did reproduce two sizes of the camel bell. One is 4.25 inches to the top of the handle and has a 4.75 inch diameter at the mouth. The other is 2 3/8th inch to the top of the handle and 3.75” at the mouth. This information is in a great book by Max Kurillo and Erline M Tuttle titled “A guide to the Historic Bells of Mrs. A. S. C. Forbes”.

      “If I were to appraise Keith’s bell I would have to know several facts: #1 What is the height and diameter?#2 Does it have a raised 5-pointed star, on it’s flat top, just below the handle? #3 Is it heavy? #4 Does it still have its original clapper attached? The larger heavier bells were said to be used on animals like the camels, and the smaller size ones, (WITHOUT the star on the top), were used on animals like the donkeys.”

      “Dear Carolyn: Page 164 and 165 of Springer’s “Collector’s Book of Bells” has a write up of the U.S. Cavalry Bell (so called) and a photo is on page 166. I don’t have any way to scan and send but you have the book anyway and can probably do whatever with it. The Nov. 1973 BT article by Fred Staacke and Springer’s contain much of the same info. I have several of these bells – 4 3/4″, 3 3/4″ 3 1/4″ (it’s possible they may have been slightly larger before wear but definitely not much). The 3″ + ones have no star on top. The 3 1/4″ has two eagles and two sunbursts rather than the repeating pattern of three (probably too small to logically put three). However, NONE of my bells have U.S. stamped near or on the top that I can see.”

      “The World of Bells” (book one, 1971) Look in section “Belling the Animals.” I’ve looked up the reference and it says, “Civil War mule bell, 3 3/4″ high, 3 3/4” diameter, bronze. Just before the outbreak of the Civil War, camels were brought over from Turkey to aid migrants through the southwestern desert. When the native drivers were sent home, our cavalry men could not cope iwth them so Operation Camel was not a success. Bells were used with… “

      “The World of Bells” (book one, 1971) Look in section “Belling the Animals.” I’ve looked up the reference and it says, “Civil War mule bell, 3 3/4″ high, 3 3/4” diameter, bronze. Just before the outbreak of the Civil War, camels were brought over from Turkey to aid migrants through the southwestern desert. When the native drivers were sent home, our cavalry men could not cope iwth them so Operation Camel was not a success. Bells were used with… “

      I presume you have read the article on Camel Bells that is posted on our website at https://www.americanbell.org/belltalk/viewtopic.php?t=417

      Do you have anything to add? Please post your response or send it to me at coordinator@americanbell.org. Thanks.

      Admin

      This inquiry was originally sent to the ABA’s Internet Coordinator. Responses are opinions of individuals based on their personal research and knowledge.

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