Welcome to the ABA! Bell Talk Forums Large Bells What is this bell – really?

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      Ruby asks:

      I have a bell fabricated in 1857 by the Verdin Co.. They have no records dating that far back. Do you have any leads where I might find out more information? Thanks. . What are your thoughts as to geographical constraints on a search of the LASHLEY NAME?

      Admin’s Note: You will notice in the pictures that this bell was made by G.W. Coffin Bell Foundry, not Verdin Co.

      Response #1

      I don’t have any info to pass on to Ruby, but would be very interested in buying her bell if she would want to sell it. If you could pass that on to her, she could sure contact me here at my email. Thank you.

      Response #2

      I can help her a bit with G. W. Coffin (Cincinnati) cast bronze bell information. Caughlan Bell & Brass Foundry was casting bells at the same time period and because of the similarity of the pronunciation of their names they are sometimes confused with each other. They were entirely separate foundries. A 10 ½” Coffin bell recently sold at Cowan’s (Cincinnati) Auction House for $747.50, including buyer’s premium.

      Response #3

      The G. W. Coffin Bell Foundry operated in Cincinnati, Ohio prior to 1837. In 1837, this foundry became known as the G.W. Coffin Bell foundry.
      In 1889, the G.W. Coffin Bell foundry was sold to Vanduzen & Tift, (also known as the Buckeye Bell Foundry) which had operated from 1865 to 1894. In 1894 the foundry was sold to E.W. Vanduzen, who operated the foundry until 1950. The Verdin Co. has a history of buying up the records of closed bell foundries and clock manufacturers. The Verdin Co. has historically serviced the bells & clocks of closed companies. There is no record of Verdin buying Vanduzen. The Verdin Co. historically has purchased bells domestically until 1950’s to resell, especially from Meneely. Since 1950, Verdin has had a contractural relationship with the Petit & Fritsen Holland foundry. In 1998, Verdin bought the rights to the Van Bergen Bell Foundry, Charleston, S.C., acquiring the North American distributorship of the Piccard Foundry France. Verdin is primarily a marketing and service company today, importing bell & clock equipment from Europe. For the Ohio Bicentennial, Verdin operated a portable bell foundry going from county to county casting a bell for this event. The Coffin bell foundries are historically reknown as THE foundry to purchase a bell for a river boats, prior to the Civil War. Coffin bells are known for their highly decorated bells and bell hardware, as your picture shows. Some Coffin bells are rumored to have been cast with 20% silver, instead of the normal bronze metal mix of 80% copper and 20% tin. Does the inqurer know where the bell was originally? Are they interested in selling it?

      Response #4

      Secondly, to clarify some bellfounding history: The Verdin Company of Cincinnati has been in the tower clock business since 1843. But they have only been in the bellfounding business since the Ohio Bicentennial in 2003. Prior to that, they acquired bells to accompany their tower clocks from a variety of American bellfounders (usually those based in Cincinnati). And since shortly after WW II, they have served as American agent for the Dutch bellfoundry of Petit & Fritsen, supplying carillons, chimes, etc. Along the way, however, they have also bought the records of various defunct American bellfoundries, including Meneely (Watervliet) and Vanduzen. (And they have expanded their business line beyond tower clocks.) Vanduzen was actually the last operator of the Buckeye Bell Foundry in Cincinnati. That bellfoundry was begun by George Washington Coffin,
      who made the bell in your photos. See http://www.gcna.org/data/IXfoundryVanduzen.html for details of that foundry’s history. The foundry records were destroyed in 1937 by the great Ohio River flood (as were many other
      valuables along the river). Verdin bought what was left when the foundry closed about 1950. But Verdin never owned or operated the foundry. The bell in your three photos is exceedingly interesting for several reasons.
      1. It’s an excellent illustration of the fact that G.W.Coffin made the most highly decorated bells of any foundry in America. 2. While the harp-like motif repeated around the bell above the soundbow is one that I have seen more than once on Coffin’s bells, the other decorative motifs (at the shoulder and on the sound bow) are not. 3. The inscription “C. LASHLEY” on the waist indicates that this was a custom-made bell; it is the first such bell from Coffin that I have seen. Since it’s the name of a person and not the name of a church, I speculate that this was made for a riverboat named “C.Lashley”. Possibly some historic resources around Cincinnati could tell you
      whether a boat with that name ever existed. (With a bell like this, it would have had to be a rather substantial steamboat!) 4. The maker’s mark on this bell is unusual. Most of the Coffin bells that I have seen (which admittedly are older than this one) have alternating panels of text and decoration around the shoulder, with the
      maker’s identification (etc.) being carried in the text panels. 5. The basic design of the cast iron yoke is very similar to what I have seen accompanying several other Coffin bells. But the details of decoration on the face of the yoke and on the “underarm” reinforcements are again different. As to the actual history of this bell, unfortunately I cannot provide any specific information. But I would be very interested to know what details are available from its present owner.

      Response #5

      This is a beautiful C. W. Coffin bell with their characteristic ornate decorations. Neal Goeppinger may be able to give her information about Coffin Bell Foundry.

      Response #6

      Hello Ruby and John, I believe your Coffin bell is a treasure and I am happy to tell you what I know about the foundry where it was cast. The Buckeye Foundry of Cincinnati, Ohio, was founded by George Washington Coffin in 1837. From 1837 to 1848 bells were customarily cast with just “Buckeye Bell Foundry” on the bell. In1848, the company became Buckeye Bell Foundry, G. W. Coffin & Co., Prop. Geo. W. Coffin and Geo. R. Dudley, and continued so until 1866. Then it became Buckeye Bell Foundry/ G. W. Coffin & Co., Prop. G. W. Coffin & E. W. Vanduzen & C. T. Tift. Eventually, the company became Buckeye Bell Foundry/ Vanduzen & Tift, Props. E. W. Vanduzen & C. T. Tift. From 1894 to 1950 it was Buckeye Bell Foundry/E. W. Vanduzen Co., Prop. E. W. Vanduzen; it closed about 1951. At that time, Verdin Co. bought all remaining assets but Verdin did not keep that foundry open. Verdin has records of production after 1937 but all records for previous years were destroyed by the 1937 flood of the Ohio River. I have some information about specific bells. Just recently, Cowan’s Auction House in Cincinnati sold a 10.5” (at the mouth – 16” high) Coffin bell at auction for $747.00, including the buyers fee. May 1846, a Coffin bell weighing 500 pounds was purchased in Cincinnati for $150 from G. W. Coffin and placed in the Wilmington, Clinton Co., Ohio Courthouse. A 400 pound Coffin bell went to the Vicksburg Military Park in 1860. The fire bell for the Bucyrus, Ohio fire department was cast by Coffin. It was used by the fire department from 1852 to 1965 and is now in the front yard of the Bucyrus Historical Society.

      On page 110 of the Second Edition of the Ohio State Gazetteer and Business Directory of October 1, 1860, the following ad appeared: “G. W. Coffin E. W. Vanduzen C. T. Tift Dealers in Lead, Zinc, Copper, Block Tin, Spelter Solder, Metal Packing, Brass Cocks, Whistles &c. 102 and 104 East Second or Columbia St Cincinnati. Our bells are executed on true scientific principles, ats (?) followed by the first Bell Foundries of Germany, France, Holland and England.” Because of the men listed, I would be suspect of that Directory date – it is more likely 1866. It might have been a typographical error. I collect Caughlan bronze bells cast in St. Louis between 1849 and 1866. People sometimes confuse the Caughlan-Coffin which is why I am more aware of Coffin than otherwise. Their bells are very much the same shape. Coffin bells often have beautiful, elaborate embellishments – sometimes cherubs or music lyres. They often have reeding high on the shoulder, and sometimes beading. The Bucyrus fire bell has the same reverse “S” stands that Caughlan used for most of his bells, which has often confused me. I wonder if the two men knew each other. How did you come by your bell?

      Response #7

      Ruby in Virginia didn’t say in her email what she wants to know.
      I’ve seen one other bell by the G. W. Coffin Co with the same ornamentation. It was about 36″ in diameter. Most of their bells have cherubs around the bell near the top. I’ve got three of this firm’s bells, but none with the harp ornaments. The owner’s name was George Washington Coffin, and later the firm’s name was changed to Vanduzen. Please forward my email to her. What I need to know is what information does she want? I can tell her nothing about the history of her individual bell, but I do have information on the foundry.

      Response #8

      Springer’s book “That Vanishing Sound” is a good source also – people don’t seem to pay much attention to tht book, but it is a good one.

      Response #9

      The bell she (Ruby) is describing is a bell cast by the G. W. Coffin Company who was established here in Cincinnati back around 1837. They were succeeded by the E. W. Van Duzen Company also of Cincinnati, Ohio.

      These were very decorative bells, as shown in the photographs attached to your e-mail; however, had a fairly bad sounding cast bronze bells. Van Duzen used a totally different profile later and made fine sounding cast bronze bells for churches and other institutions throughout the United States.

      Coffin apparently did not make very many bells and the E. W. Van Duzen Company, as you may know, was very successful.

      There is not much more we can say about that other than the decorative bell did not sound as well as others that were cast during that same period.


      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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