Uncle Mike’s Ship Bell Updated with pictures
December 25, 2012 at 1:33 am #12180
First off let me say hello….I’m new to this forum. I’m not really a bell collector but recently was given a nice old one that my great uncle acquired while he was either working as a longshoreman on the great lakes or from when he was in the merchant marines. A little background from me: I appreciate nice old stuff and have in the past collected/restored/use vintage fans, a few old bikes so on. This is my first bell.
Back to the bell. It is around 10 inches at the base, about 8 inches tall, appears to be made of bronze given the nice smooth greenish gray patina. The clapper and bracket (hopefully I’m using the correct terms) appear to be original and made of the same material as the bell. It is a rather plain looking bell with Poling Bros No 10 cast into it’s side. It weighs at least 20lbs.
From what I have been able to find doing a bit of research online there were two ships names Poling Bros #10. One was built about 1911 and the other in 1944. I’m assuming the bell came from one of the two. It’s not something I discussed with my great uncle before he passed but I’m interested in finding out which boat (or ship as uncle Mike would insist!) the bell came from.
Given the style of script on the bell I would guess is from the earlier great lakes ship.
Updated: Higher resolution pictures posted here: https://home.comcast.net/~buzzfan/polingbrosbell.htm
December 27, 2012 at 5:32 pm #17270
Can you give us some details on the bell itself?
I am curious if it will hold a magnet. The clapper appears to show rust so I am thinking it might be iron not brass. If you think they are the same then the bell might be an iron alloy too. Also, the photos look painted battleship grey to me, and the second vessel was built for military use, so that makes sense if so.
I see parts that, to me look like it’s from the later boat. The bracket looks like it’s from the 40’s for example. But I’ll have to look around to see if I can find confirmation. But it appears to be from the one built in 1944 and probably salvaged in 2001 before it was used as a Reef ship (sunk as to form a reef). To
When the ship was re-sold /named they sometimes replaced the bell (and it was sold / renamed many times) but when sunk as a reef they would have removed it to prevent theft by casual divers.
Finally, have you seen this site?
December 28, 2012 at 12:26 am #17271
Hello Gary & thanks for the response,
A magnet only sticks to the black metal plate attached to the bracket by the 3 screws. No indication of magnetic pull on the rest of the bell. It hung for years in Munster Indiana. I’m sure the surface is patina and not paint. It shows like brass where the bell was placed on the garage floor.
I bet my uncle acquired the bell long before the ship was sunk (probably when it changed ownership?). He was in his 90’s when he passed. I did see the tugboat site as well as another that had a picture of the earlier & smaller vessel. I have to agree on the bracket design. Looks more recent.
December 29, 2012 at 12:58 am #17272
No problem, I like a challenge!
First, I am a bit surprised when you said the magnet doesn’t stick. Did you use a rare earth (strong) magnet? Your regular fridge magnet only has a low field strength. My reasoning is that Bronze is more typically used for marine fittings (see http://www.diffen.com/difference/Brass_vs_Bronze for example) as it is more resistant to corrosion over time. Bronze is an alloy of TIN and copper, so should be weakly magnetic. (Brass is Zinc and Copper so no magnetism). Your test does tell us that we don’ t have a steel bell though, so it’s something either saved from before the war years or afterwards. The more likely is afterwards when copper / bronze /brass became commercially available again. Greenish (copper oxide) Grey (tin) suggests Bronze as well (Zinc oxidizes white). If the bell had been around when everyone was scrounging copper for bullet casings it likely would have been snapped up for the war effort.
(as a bit of an aside, I have a WOODEN air raid ‘bell’ used in England because metals were scarce and couldn’t be used for something like that! It gives you an idea of the shortages of the material.)
You might try working backwards at your end, to narrow down the dates as well. When would your Uncle’s health prevent his collecting? Was he an avid collector or casual? Relatives might shed some light as well. If he moved around, when would he have been in the great lakes area to collect the bell? When might he have started collecting? That should give you a range and an idea as to if he targeted collecting marine items or was just casual and ‘chanced’ upon it.
Check my logic:
Looking at the Poling Bro’s history, I’d suggest that the bell was removed from the Second Vessel in 1967 when it was sold, and stored. The lettering style seems very 1950’s ish to me so it readily could have been struck in 1959 when the Poling Bros acquired her. This is after the war when vessels were being recycled so it’s relative value would have been low therefore not sold. I’d suspect that it was removed and stored in 1967 then replaced when the Poling Bros re-aquired her in 1969. That’s a gap of only two years so it’s very conceivable that they had held on to the bell that long – planning to replace the vessel just sold off- but instead simply reacquired again. So when it was sold yet again in 1974 (Note: after first being renamed) I suggest that it was permanently removed and sold off (they renamed the vessel so were not likely to rename it back again or even use it on another if they had gone that far! So the bell would no longer be needed.). Usually the mounting bracket is removed with the bell as each bell type has it’s own style or size of bracket that comes with it when bought. The one on your bell, as mentioned looks very military and there would be many companies out there with the pour forms for that style after the war. It’s unlikely they would not simply keep using them – especially for utilitarian bells!
Did your uncle ever work in or near a salvage yard in that area? He may have obtained the bell that way as well, saving it from being melted down. How does the 1974 date work with your Uncle’s history? Is it a reasonable estimate?
I’m still looking for other harder evidence but thought my initial starting point might be of interest as well.
December 30, 2012 at 1:23 am #17273
My uncle was never actually a collector Gary….I think he just picked up stuff he liked from his work. We had discussed some electric fans he had but took back to the ship because they were DC only (I know good number of brass blade/cage and or DC voltage desk fans ended up scrapped during the wars as well). I would have liked have seen those! Had my uncle still been alive today he would have been 94 years old. I do know that he spend most of his time on the great lakes.
Yes…I did use a refrigerator magnet. I’ll locate something better and give it a try. I’m still thinking this is an earlier bell. Maybe it was stored from the first ship and used on the second as well? It does not show much in the way of dings or damage that could be associated with shelf storage though. Someone suggested it could even be white bronze? Not sure about that.
December 31, 2012 at 4:13 am #17274
Mark, I agree, it’s unlikely to be ‘white bronze’ as that is a substitute material used in Jewelry primarily (mostly to replace nickel): White bronze is copper, tin, and zinc and is also known as ‘Miralloy’. It would be very soft for a bell and become damaged easily.
Boy, I’d like to see those fans too! Especially if they were 6 or 8 bladed ones. Very hard to get now!
From what I have been able to find so far, the first poling bros No 10 was a coastal tanker built in 1911 for service on the Great Lakes. It was called by that name between 1934 – 1950 after which it became the “Virginia” so the bell would likely have been pulled at that time and replaced. If my math is correct, that would make your uncle about 32 at the time – so it is just possible.
But A few other things lead me to believe that this is not the bell from that vessel, however.
Firstly, it seems a bit small for a ship the size of a tanker, the only examples I have come across for tanker bells were about 6 inches larger in width.
– mid range vessels like large tugs seems to have had your size of bell.
Next, Ship bells of that era tended to have the foundry marks on them (including manufacture date) as well. You don’t mention any on yours. – WWII typically dropped that requirement as an unnecessary frill, which did not seem to reappear after the war.
Further, bells for larger ships tended to have long necks on them. -Ones for mid size vessels and smaller had little or no necks.
Lastly, bells of that age tended to have a tongue on top (like a submarine conning tower) with a horizontal hole and be pinned in place. Machined Screws/nuts were still pretty expensive back then! (do a google search for : MS BREMEN 1911 SHIP BELL to see an example).
This site might also interest you:
http://www.history.navy.mil/photos/images/i05000/i05044r.jpg Check the bell’s lettering size against the chart, if you would!
The US Navy historically rated 20 LB bells to craft 25 to 65 feet in length. The First No 10 was 90 feet long and it’s tonnage would rate a bell 50% larger in weight so the 6 inch diameter increase also still holds up. While a tanker isn’t a navy ship, I believe No 10 was originally constructed to be a naval bunker supply vessel, if one of the sites I found is correct. And Naval sizes tended to pretty much match what was already in use out in the world – they just wanted to standardize the items from minor variations so that it would be easier to stock replacement parts. Therefore I would expect the civilian version to be close to these sizes.
But if the bell is from the SECOND No 10, the tug, then the actual and expected sizes match. Your Uncle would be 56 at that time that bell would have become available. He would be more settled / less likely to move (due to employment requirements), and be looking towards retirement. It’s a time he might very well be interested in picking up a heavy ‘collectable’ item like a bell rather than earlier when he might have to lug it around a few times when moving. Especially if he wasn’t a collector of bells themselves. Any kids would be more grown up/less dependent, the general financial condition of the country was better at that time as it’s much further from the depression decade, so he likely would have more time/money to obtain such items as well. Put that with the other points I mention above and in my last post and, well, I think you see why I lean towards the later vessel.
I am also waiting to hear back from a contact I made with a group that deals in information on ships of this type. I don’t expect to hear anything back till the new year though, due to holidays.
I probably won’t be back on line till the new year, so wishing you and yours a great one!
January 7, 2013 at 3:33 am #17275
No reply yet from my e-mail inquiries.
But it appears that, after 23 & 1/2 years the poling bros company went out of business in 1989. At least that’s the last time they filed tax records.
Your Uncle would be about 71 at that time so it depends on how healthy and interested he was, if he collected it then, with the sale of company assets.
January 23, 2013 at 2:29 pm #17276
Still no word back… trying other avenues now.
February 26, 2013 at 4:25 am #17277RichardAParticipant
My father, John P. Alban, bought the Poling 10 in 1974 and sold her soon thereafter. He had in his possession and I now have the bell with the letters TYCOL stamped on it. The Navy sold the vessel after WW II and she was named TYCOL. He is now in his 90’s but still very sharp and living in Texas. I’ll ask him about bells that may have been on the ship and how he came to obtain the one with TYCOL stamped on it.
March 24, 2013 at 9:54 pm #17278
Hello Rich, I’d really be interested in hearing about what your father has to say about the TYCOL and its history including the bells. It’s really great that you have found this discussion!Garry thinks the 2nd/later number 10 was possibly a tug but the TYCOL was a larger ship right?
I was able to dig up a photo of the earlier Poling #10 and it looks not to be as large a ship as the later TYCOL.
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