Milestones in North American chimes
and American bellfounding

Contributing directly to the history of tower bell instruments in North America are a number of developments from a variety of bellfounders, on this continent and in Europe.  The list below attempts to present, in approximately chronological order, some of the significant events which occurred in that area, primarily those involving chimes and/or the foundries which made chimes.

NOTES:

Milestone years and events

1805
St.Michael's Episcopal Church, Charleston, SC
In this year, the octave of bells from the Whitechapel foundry of England, installed for change-ringing in 1764, was equipped with a locally-made chimestand for the playing of tunes.  That was undoubtedly the first chimestand in North America.

1825
(location unknown)
The Revere/Hooper/Blake foundry later claimed to have cast the first chime in America in this year, though no evidence has yet been found to substantiate that claim.

1848
Trinity Episcopal Church, New York, NY
The Meneely (West Troy) foundry successfully recast the largest bell of what was then an 8-bell ring from Whitechapel.  This demonstrated that an American foundry could cast a heavy bell to match a specified pitch, which was an essential step toward the imminent new capability of making chimes.

1849
Trinity Episcopal Church, New York, NY
The Whitechapel foundry of England, then being operated by C. & G. Mears, added a ninth bell to the octave of change-ringing bells already at this church, thus producing the first chime in America known to have been larger than 8 bells.  (The four 8-bell installations which existed at this point were all hung for change-ringing, so that any chiming functions were ancillary to their purpose.)  Being a semitone addition to the diatonic scale, this was also the first bell imported to North America specifically for use in playing tunes.  It may thus have set a precedent which inspired three American bellfounders to begin producing chimes in the next few years.

1848-50
St.Philip's Episcopal Church, Charleston, SC
An 11-bell chime was installed here in 1849, and dedicated early the following year.  The bells came from Philadelphia in late 1848, having been cast by Francis Mayer using the bellfoundry owned by Mr.Dyer in that city.  They were installed in conjunction with a tower clock (provided by Francis Stein) which could play tunes on the bells.  They could also be played manually, perhaps following the example of St.Michael's bells.  (See 1805, above.)  This was the first chime actually made in North America, though conflicting claims were later made by other foundries (see above and below).  The bells were seized by the Confederate Army in 1862 for war materiel, and no trace of the installation remains in the tower; thus very little is known about the chime.  (But see Cincinnati, 1851, below.)

1850
Mechanics Fair, Boston, MA
The Revere/Hooper/Blake foundry displayed a chime at this fair, and later claimed it to be the second chime cast in America (based on their claim of having cast the first in 1825--see above).

1850
Mechanics Institute, Cincinnati, OH
The foundry of George L. Hanks cast a heavy 11-bell chime in this year, and exhibited it at the institute.  However, no evidence of its later installation elsewhere has been found, so it is assumed that the bells were eventually dispersed.

The author of this page considers the Hooper and Hanks chimes to be tied for the designation of second chime made in America.

1850?
American Institute Fair, New York, NY
A 9-bell chime won a gold medal at this fair, and has been claimed to be the first chime in America.  Reports differ as to whether it was made by the Jones foundry (but see 1853, below) or the Meneely (West Troy) foundry.  In any case, the eventual disposition of the chime is unknown.

1851
St.Peter-in-Chains Cathedral, Cincinnati, OH
St.Teresa of Avila Catholic Church, Cincinnati, OH
The second chime cast by George L. Hanks of this city was installed in the recently-built Cathedral; it contained 11 bells.  The following year it was connected to a clock built by Francis Stein, formerly of Charleston, SC; the clock played tunes upon the bells automatically at 3-hour intervals.  This was the second such installation in North America; the chime was designed to specifications provided by Stein, and both it and the clock were modelled on those of St.Philip's Church, Charleston, SC (see 1848-50, above).  In 1955, the bells were moved from St.Peter to St.Teresa, but it is not known what happened to Stein's marvelous clock, which had been in use at least into the 1930s.  (St.Peter's was downgraded to a parish church in 1937, and restored to cathedral status in 1957.)

1853
St.Stephen's Episcopal Church, Philadelphia, PA
The first chime produced by the Jones foundry, containing 9 bells, was later claimed by them to have been the first chime made in America.  (An 8-bell chime from the same foundry was installed the same year in Trinity Lutheran Church, Lancaster, PA; see also 1860, below.)

1854
Trinity Episcopal Church, Cleveland, OH
A 9-bell chime from the Meneely (West Troy) foundry may have been the first produced by them, although there are other chimes from the same foundry for which dates of production are not yet known.

1856
St.Paul's Episcopal Church, Buffalo, NY
The Meneely (West Troy) foundry made the only true change-ringing installation ever to come from an American bellfoundry--8 bells in a 9-bell chime.  (But see Exeter, 1890, below.)  The bells were later recast and/or augmented, and certainly rehung, so that little evidence of this work remains.

1860
Arlington Street Church, Boston, MA
Christ Church, Cambridge, MA
These two chimes are the earliest confirmed from the Revere/Hooper/Blake foundry (but see 1825 and 1850, above).

1860
Trinity Lutheran Church, Lancaster, PA
The only cast steel chime known in North America is an octave that was supplied by Naylor-Vickers & Co., Sheffield, England.  It replaced an octave from the Jones foundry, which had been installed earlier but was not deemed satisfactory.

1869
First English Lutheran Church, Dayton, OH
This is the only chime known to contain bells carrying the name of the Niles Works of Cincinnati.  (But see 1851, above.)

1870
Michigan Avenue Baptist Church, Chicago, IL
With 17 bells, this was the largest chime ever produced by the Jones foundry, and the only one of those to exceed 12 bells.

1874
St.Mary's Catholic Church, Lawrence, MA
The last large chime known to have been made by the Revere/Hooper/Blake foundry was installed here.

1875
St.Peter's Episcopal Church, Albany, NY
The first chime produced by the Meneely (Troy) foundry contains 11 bells.

1876
Episcopal Cathedral of the Incarnation, Garden City, L.I., NY
A 13-bell chime from the McShane foundry may have been the first produced by them, although there are other chimes from the same foundry for which dates of production are not yet known.

1884
St.John's United Church of Christ, Allentown, PA
The last chime produced by the Jones foundry prior to its closure in 1887 contains 9 bells.

1885-95
The Stuckstede foundry made five large and heavy chimes (15 to 18 bells, bass bell of two tons or more) for churches in five different states.

1890
Trivitt Memorial Church (Anglican), Exeter, ON
The McShane foundry installed a 10-bell chime in which the six heaviest bells (the "back six") are hung for Veronese-style full-circle ringing (i.e., they do not have the English-style stays and sliders which prevent a bell from overturning).

1892
Circus World Museum, Baraboo, WI
The only chime known by Gardiner Campbell & Sons of Milwaukee was made for a circus wagon, not a bell tower.

1893
Mills College, Oakland, CA
First Church, Nashua, NH
These two chimes are both claimed to have been displayed in Chicago at the World's Columbian Exposition of this year by the Vanduzen foundry before installation in their present homes.  Since there is no evidence that Vanduzen displayed two chimes there, one of those claims is wrong; either Vanduzen actually made a completely new chime for Nashua, or someone misrepresented the history of the bells installed in Oakland.  One or the other of these might have been the first tower chime produced by Vanduzen, although there are other chimes from the same foundry for which dates of production are not yet known.  Certain it is that by June 1894 there were two chimes in existence, one on display in California and the other in the tower in Nashua.  Now the one at Mills is in the key of E, whereas the one displayed at Chicago was in the key of D.  It seems likely, therefore, that Vanduzen described the chime exhibited in California as being "like" the one which they had just exhibited in Chicago, and that whoever had these bells from 1894 to 1902 mis-remembered that as "being" the Chicago bells.

1896
St.Francis de Sales Catholic Church, Cincinnati, OH
The largest bell ever cast in America was produced by the Vanduzen foundry of this city.

1901
St.Paul's Cathedral, London, ON
St.George's Anglican Church, Montreal, QU
City Hall, Toronto, ON
The Gillett & Johnston foundry of England shipped its first two chimes destined for this continent, and its first great bell destined for this continent, all to Canada.

1908
Hollywood Forever Memorial Park, Los Angeles, CA
This chime may have been the last produced by the Vanduzen foundry, although there are other chimes from the same foundry for which dates of production are not yet known.

1930
First United Church of Christ, Carlisle, PA
An 11-bell chime from the McShane foundry may have been the last complete chime produced by them, although there are other chimes from the same foundry for which dates of production are not yet known.

1947
St.James United Church, Newcastle, New Brunswick
The Gillett & Johnston foundry of England shipped its last chime destined for this continent.

1947
Grace Congregational Church, Rutland, VT
The last complete chime produced by the Meneely (Troy) foundry contained 11 bells (one of which has since been replaced).

1948
St.Mark's Episcopal Church, New Canaan, CT
A 13-bell chime from the Meneely (West Troy) foundry may have been the last produced by them, although there are other chimes from the same foundry for which dates of production are not yet known.  (These bells have been replaced by a carillon and dispersed.)

1956
Church of the Precious Blood, Detroit, MI
A 35-bell carillon of unknown mechanism, supplied by the Petit & Fritsen foundry in 1951, was down-sized to a chime -- one of only two known instances of such a change.  (The name of the parish was later changed to St.Peter Claver Catholic Community.)

See also milestones in North American traditional-keyboard carillons
and milestones in other North American bell instruments.


Return to Indexes to chimes in North America.


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