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This page provides some illustrative material related to the work of St.Louis bellfounder David Caughlan, who was active from about 1853 to 1866.  It does not attempt to present a history of that bellfoundry, partly because the absence of dates on most of the surviving Caughlan bells makes that history problematical.  However, a chronological outline of the business names which he used can be found on the Saint Louis Bellfoundries page.

Caughlan bells

Here are four examples of bells by David Caughlan, plus a couple of others which have some stylistic connections.  The photo links will open in separate browser windows to enable easy comparison of photo and text.  All of the photos of one bell will share one browser window, which will be different from the windows used for other bells; this will enable easy comparison of different bells.

Descriptive text is in plain typeface.
Comparative text is in italic typeface.
Speculative text is in a smaller plain typeface.

Bells by David Caughlan, St.Louis, MO

Westport Methodist Church, Kansas City, KS

Several photos are shown together on a separate page.

Methodist Church, Pinckneyville, IL

photo 1, bell as mounted outside the church. The yoke, bolt-in gudgeon pins and clapper are original.
photo 2, bell and yoke. Note the tightly curved "S" pattern of the reinforcements under the arms of the yoke. On the right arm can be seen some of the letters of "SAINT LOUIS MO". On the center panel is the usual sculpture of a standing angel with harp. The bell has a simple one-part shoulder band with lettering below a repeating pattern of alternating acorns and small points dependent from the upper bead.
photo 3, part of bell and yoke. At left is the last part of "CAST.BY.CAUGHLAN"; at right is the first letter of "BELL & BRASS ...". One might speculate that the space in the middle was originally intended to be filled by "& BRO", which would limit the range of dates within which this bell could have been made. However, there is also a longer space on the opposite side of the bell; if this space were filled then that one would be left alone, which leaves an odd asymmetry in the inscription.
photo 4, to the left of the previous photo. Note the periods after "CAST" and "BY". The lettering on this bell is upright serif capitals with variable-width strokes. It is very different from that used on later Caughlan bells.
photo 5, to the left of the previous photo. Unlike most other Caughlan bells, "Saint" is here abbreviated as "St." Note that the "t" is actually a superscript capital with the period directly below it. The abbreviation of Missouri as "Mo." is in a different style than that used on later bells. Notice that the "o" is elevated above a hyphen "-" and two periods. Both abbreviations are stylistically similar to those used by some other St.Louis bellfounders.

This is almost certainly the oldest of the three Caughlan bells shown here.

Kaskaskia Masonic Lodge, Evansville, IL

photo 1, showing entire bell, with tang, on yoke fabricated by a blacksmith. The clapper is suspended from a cast-in iron clapper staple. This is the only Caughlan bell known with a tang and staple.
photo 2, showing "CAUGHLAN" in the shoulder band, with obvious joint to the right. The repeating pattern below the band alternates between a three-stemmed cluster of small flowers and a single larger open flower.
photo 3, showing the "city" side of the shoulder band, with joint through both the lettering and the repeated pattern below. Note the period after "MO" and the absence of a comma after "LOUIS"; both are characteristic of David Caughlan's most prevalent style of lettering. The square-cut, upright, sans-serif font face is also characteristic of that style.

This bell is mounted on iron uprights, each of which is shaped from a single piece of heavy iron bar stock; they may be contemporary with the yoke. These uprights are in turn mounted on X-shaped wooden legs connected by a single crossbar. There are casters on the bottom to make the whole assembly movable. The skinny chain draped across the top is to prevent the uprights from spreading apart, and letting the bell fall. The bell assembly is stored in the basement of a very senior member of the Lodge; for the purpose of these photographs, it was rolled through a walkout door into the fortuitous sunshine.

Methodist Church, California, MO

photo 1, showing bell, yoke and wheel. The decoration and lettering are typical of David Caughlan's larger bells. The yoke is similar to those on most of his bells; however, there is no sculpture on the center panel and no lettering on the faces of the arms, and the S-shape of the yoke reinforcement panels is much less tightly curved than that of the Pinckneyville yoke (above). The gudgeon pins are cast into the ends of the yoke. The wheel is not original--it does not fit the hub properly.
photo 2, showing maker's name, vine pattern, repeating leaf pattern, all formed as a unit with a joint in the center.

It is not clear whether the Evansville bell or the California bell is older.

Bells by others

Buckeye Bell Foundry, Cincinnati, O.

This bell is dated 1850, and is very similar to others from this foundry. The shoulder band is in three parts. The wide upper part is composed of six panels which alternate between lettering and sculpture. The middle part is a vine band, with 4-petaled open flowers above the vine and closed buds below it. The lower part is a repeated pattern of leaflets with smooth convex edges. The middle and lower parts are virtually identical to those used on the California bell shown above, except that here they are more crisply molded. That might indicate that David Caughlan used a bell such as this as the pattern for his own decorative molds.

Mayer & Ruppenthal, St.Louis, MO

photo 1
photo 2
Although the style of the bell is totally different from any of those used by David Caughlan, the iron yoke from which the bell is suspended is identical in style to those on many Caughlan bells, right down to the bolt-in gudgeon pins. This tends to lend credence to the idea that bellfounders purchased cast iron fittings for their bells from iron foundries, rather than making them. The principal reason for this would be that the casting processes for the two metals are so dissimilar that it would not be profitable for most firms to try to do both kinds of work.

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This page was created 2002/03/22 and last revised on 2015/05/14.

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