J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The New Old South Bell (Which Is Old)

Old South Meeting House is displaying its “new” bell from Paul Revere’s foundry for a few weeks before the instrument is hoisted into its tower.

Old South had a bell from 1731 to 1876, when the congregation moved to Old South Church in the Back Bay and the older building became a speaking venue and historic museum. The organization recently restored the Gawen Brown clock in its tower, and will soon once again have a bell to ring out the hours.

The new bell is actually 210 years old, made by Revere and Sons for a meetinghouse in Westborough, Massachusetts. Since 1849, it hung in the tower of that town’s Baptist church, which closed in 2007. Clock restorer James Storrow sent some articles about the bell from the Worcester Telegram & Gazette and the Metrowest Daily News. Here’s the Boston Globe’s take, and WBUR’s.

According to the History Blog, the Revere foundry charged $2.69 for the bell in 1801, but that’s far too low. At the typical rate of $.45 per pound, it should have cost about $400. (Reports differ as to whether the bell weighs 865 pounds or 876.) The Westboro’, Mass., Baptists bought it used for $173 in 1849. Old South credits a “generous donor” with making it available to the meeting house since “other organizations…reportedly had offered as much as $200,000 for it.”

Old South has also shared a list of other surviving church bells from the Revere foundry. The Massachusetts Historical Society is displaying a business card from the family’s bell and cannon factory.


Anonymous said...

Looking at the list of Revere bells you linked to, the one in TN jumped out at me. After a quick google search, a recent news article says that it has been moved.


J. L. Bell said...

Thanks for the link. Those Revere & Sons bells seem to have been a well-traveled bunch.