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Bell Foundries

A vitally important aspect of the study of tower bells is the matter of how they are made.  It isn't sufficient to say simply that they are cast from bronze (or occasionally other materials) in a conventional shape.  Present-day methods, makers and styles are inextricably connected to the history of the development of the art and science of bellfounding, to the people who contributed to each step in that development, and to the places and times in which each of them worked.
Reminder: Do not expect to find completeness here. This Website is itself an object undergoing development.

Bell making

(There will eventually be information/links here about the making of bells.)

Bellfounders in Europe

The present-day bellfoundries listed below have Websites.  Those with names in bold have produced significant numbers of bells for carillons and chimes, and indexes to their work in that regard can be found here.

Other sources of information

Other small bellfoundries are known to exist, but they tend to supply only their own local areas, and they do not build carillons or chimes.

Former European bellfoundries

European bellfoundries which have ceased operations but which are known to have contributed bells to carillons or chimes or to have made great bells are listed here.  We make no effort to list any of the many other bellfoundries which have operated in Europe in the past.  Like most generalities, this statement does have its exceptions:

Cast steel bells were imported from England by Naylor Vickers in North America for a few decades in the mid-to-late 19th century.

Bellfounders in America

More than 300 different bellfounders are known to have worked in the United States of America during the past three centuries.  Almost 200 of them produced traditional cast bronze bells, while others produced cast iron, cast steel or "amalgam" bells.  All of those which have been reported are listed and briefly described in Neil Goeppinger's authoritative book or its supplement here, even if their existence has not been confirmed.  (Some listed firms may actually have been distributors of bells from other manufacturers, and some names may have been mis-reported.)
Some of the major centers of this industry, now almost vanished, are identified below, in order by state.

If you have a question about any bellfoundry (whether mentioned in these pages or not), or if you have an unidentified tower or farm bell and want assistance in discovering who made it, please send an inquiry.  Include photographs if possible, preferably large and sharp, because it is often possible to identify the maker of a bell by its style, even when there is no inscription on it, or when a maker's inscription is partially damaged or obscured.
If you have an inquiry about a smaller bell, you should instead post it to the Forum of the American Bell Association.
Including one or more photographs with such an inquiry is highly recommended.

Baltimore, Maryland

This city housed several significant regional bellfoundries, and a suburb is now home to the only historic American bellfoundry to have survived past the middle of the 20th century.  Though it no longer actually makes bells, the McShane Bell Foundry was one of the three major American makers of chimes, besides producing thousands of single bells and peals of 2 to 4 bells.  The data side of this Website has an index of McShane chimes, which includes an outline of the history of the foundry.

Boston & vicinity, Massachusetts

Although there were small-scale bellfounders working in America at least as early as 1717, the first significant bellfoundry was that of Col.Aaron Hobart, which operated in Abingdon for thirty years beginning in 1861.

The first major post-Revolutionary bellfoundry was established in 1792 in Boston by the famous patriot Paul Revere.  For further information about it, see the Revere foundry page here.

Various apprentices of Paul Revere were later involved in the establishment of at least two regionally important bell foundries.  One was set up by George Holbrook in the nearby town of Medway; for further information, see the Holbrook foundry page here.

Another, begun by Henry Hooper, was one of the four minor American makers of chimes.  The data side of this Website has an index of Hooper/Blake chimes, with an outline of the history of that foundry.

Saint Louis, Missouri

At least 36 different business enterprises are known to have made, sold or advertised bells in the city of St.Louis at various times during the last two-thirds of the 19th century, with a few of them lasting into the first half of the 20th century.  One of them was large enough to compete with the major bellfoundries to the east, and was among the four minor American makers of chimes.  The data side of this Website has an index of Stuckstede chimes, with an outline of the history of the two Stuckstede foundries.

For further information, see the Saint Louis Bell Foundries page here.

New York, New York

As the largest metropolitan area in the country, and one of the oldest, this was the home of a large number of different bellfoundries in the 18th and 19th centuries, though none of them lasted very long nor produced many bells.

Troy and West Troy (Watervliet), New York

These towns were the homes of two of the largest bellfoundries in America, operated by competing branches of the Meneely family.  Both of those foundries were among the three major American makers of chimes.  Another bellfoundry in Troy was among the four minor American makers of chimes.  A few other bellfoundries were also located here from time to time.  West Troy, originally named Gibbonsville, later was renamed Watervliet.  The data side of this Website has indexes of chimes by Jones (Troy), carillons and chimes by Meneely (Watervliet) and chimes by Meneely (Troy); each of those three pages includes a sketch of that foundry's history plus links to further information.

Southwestern Ohio

Several bellfoundries in Cincinnati, including two of the largest and longest-lived in the USA, made either bronze or iron bells.  One of those, the Buckeye Bell Foundry (operated by Vanduzen), was among the four minor American makers of chimes; the data side of this Website has an index of Vanduzen chimes, including a brief sketch of the history of this foundry.

The largest of many American producers of iron or steel bells was probably the C.S.Bell Company, located in the town of Hillsboro, east of Cincinnati.  Using a special cast steel alloy called "crystal metal," this firm produced bells of all sizes from 12" diameter postmount farm or dinner bells to 48" diameter church bells.  These bells, unlike those made of bronze, do not carry any inscription (except for a size number on the top).  Instead, the identification of the maker is found on the yoke from which the bell hangs.

Two of the three modern bellfoundries in the USA are located in this area:

Virginia

Although not actually a major center of bellfounding, this state is home to the third and newest modern bellfoundry in the USA, that of B. A. Sunderlin.

Bellfounders elsewhere

Little is known of the foundries that made bells in Mexico, Central and South America, or the Orient, though it is clear that some bells were cast in these places as well as being exported to them from Europe.


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This page was created 2002/09/02 and last revised 2019/01/07.

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