Bell (Saxon hellan, to make a hollow sound, to bellow), a hollow metallic vessel, which, by its vibrations when struck, gives forth sounds which vary with its shape, size, and composition. It is an instrument of great antiquity, being spoken of by the old Hebrew writers, as in Exodus xxviii., in which golden bells are prescribed as appendages to the dress of the high priest, that notice may thus be given of bis approach to the sanctuary. In very early times the Greeks used bells as signals in their camps and military stations; the tradespeople, according to Plutarch, rang hand bells in the Athenian markets; and they were also probably used in the household, in the same way that we employ them to-day. The Romans at all events seem to have made this use of them; and by them they also announced the time of bathing. In a still older civilization the feast of Osiris is said to have been announced by the ringing of bells. The ancients fastened bells to the necks of their cattle, a custom which has been perpetuated; and in several less important methods of use, in ornamentation, in the decoration of horses at festivals, etc, they frequently employed them. - Bells are said to have been first used for churches about A. D. 400, by St. Paulinus, bishop of Nola, a town in Campania - whence the names nola and campana given them in the monkish Latin, and still retained in several European languages.
In England and France they were in use as early as the 7th century, and the first parish churches appear to have been furnished with their campanile or bell tower, which still continues to be one of their distinguishing features. Several were used in a single church, as is still the custom when arranged in chimes, or, as in Roman Catholic countries, without regard to harmony of tones. The church of the abbey of Croyland in England had one great bell named Guthlac, presented by the abbot Turketulus, who died about the year 870, and subsequently six others, presented by his successor, Egelric, and named Bartholomew and Betelin, Turketul and Tatwin, Bega and Pega. When all these were rung together, Ingulphus says, "fiebat mira-bilis harmonia, nee erat tunc tanta consonan-tia campanarum in tota Anglia." The custom of consecrating church bells, still universal among Roman Catholics and not infrequent in Protestant communities, dates back to a very early period. In Charlemagne's capitulary of 787 we find the prohibition "ut cloccce hapti-zentur;" and in the old liturgies of the Catholic church is a form of consecration directing the priests to wash the bell with water, anoint it with oil, and mark it with the sign of the cross, in the name of the Trinity. Names were given to bells as early as the year 968, when the great bell of the Lateran church was named by John XIII., for himself, John. - The ancient custom of ringing the passing bell, that those who heard it might pray for the soul that was leaving this world, endured for centuries, and is not yet entirely abandoned; and the ringing of the curfew bell - a custom introduced into England before the Norman conquest, and common on the continent of Europe from the earliest times - remained until the 16th century a signal prescribed by law, to warn the citizens, as its name (from the French couvre-feu) indicates, to put out the fires which in those days threatened such danger to the thatched and wooden villages.
Other early and long enduring uses of church bells were to give the alarm in case of invasion or other public danger, to peal in celebration of marriages, and to toll during the burial of the dead - duties which, in modified form at least, are still assigned to them. - The bells of Russia are among the most famous of the world. In Moscow alone, before the great fire, there were no less than 1,706 large bells; in a single tower there were 37. One called Bolshoi (the Giant), cast in the 10th century, broken by falling from its support, and recast in 1654, was so large that it required 24 men to ring it, and this was done by simply pulling the clapper; its weight was estimated at 288,000 lbs. It was suspended from an immense beam at the foot of the bell tower, but it again fell during a fire on June 19, 1706, and was a second time broken to fragments. These were used with additional materials, in 1733, in casting the Tsar Kolo-kol (king of bells), still to be seen at Moscow.
Tsar Kolokol, Moscow.
Some falling timbers, in a fire in 1737, broke a piece from its side, which has never been replaced. This bell is estimated to weigh 443,-772 lbs.; it is 10 ft, 3 in. high, and measures around its margin 60 ft. 9 in. The value of the metal alone in this bell is estimated to amount to over $300,000. Whether this bell was ever hung or not, authorities appear to differ. The following notice of the bells of Moscow, and of the great bell in particular, is from Clarke's "Travels": "The numberless bells of Moscow continue to ring during the whole of Easter week, tinkling and tolling without harmony or order. The large bell near the cathedral is only used upon important occasions, and yields the finest and most solemn tone I ever heard. When it sounds, a deep hollow murmur vibrates all over Moscow, like the fullest tones of a vast organ, or the rolling of distant thunder. This bell is suspended in a tower called the belfry of St. Ivan, beneath others which, though of less size, are enormous. It is 40 ft. 9 in. in circumference, 16 1/2 in. thick, and it weighs more than 57 tons. The great bell of Moscow, known to be the largest ever founded, is in a deep pit in the midst of the Kremlin. . . . The bell is truly a mountain of metal.
They relate that it contains a very large proportion of gold and silver, for that while it was in fusion the nobles and the people cast in as votive offerings their plate and money. ... I endeavored in vain to assay a small part. The natives regard it with superstitious veneration, and they would not allow even a grain to be filed off; at the same time, it may be said, the compound has a white shining appearance, unlike bell metal in general, and perhaps its silvery appearance has strengthened if not given rise to a conjecture respecting the richness of its materials. On festival days the peasants visit the bell as they would a church, considering it an act of devotion, and they cross themselves as they descend and ascend the steps leading to the bell." After Mr. Clarke's visit the czar Nicholas, in the year 1837, caused the great bell to be taken out of the deep pit in which it lay, and to be placed upon a granite pedestal. Upon its side is seen, over a border of flowers, the figure of the empress Anne in flowing robes. The bell has been consecrated as a chapel; the door is in the aperture made by the piece which fell out. The room is 22 ft. in diameter and 21 ft. 3 in. high. The bells of China rank next in size to those of Russia, but are much inferior to them in form and tone.
In Peking, it is stated by Father Le Compte, there are seven bells each weighing 120,000 lbs. One in the suburbs of the city is, according to the testimony of many travellers, the largest suspended bell in the world. It is hung near the ground, in a large pavilion, and to ring it a huge beam is swung against its side. A bell taken from the Dagon pagoda at Rangoon was valued at $80,000. Among the bells recently cast for the new houses of parliament, the largest weighs 14 tons. The next largest bell in England was cast in 1845 for York minster, and weighs 27,000 lbs., and is 7 ft. 7 in. in diameter. The great Tom of Oxford weighs 17,000 lbs., and the great Tom of Lincoln 12,-000 lbs. The bell of St. Paul's in London is 9 ft. in diameter, and weighs 11,500 lbs. One placed in the cathedral of Paris in 1680 weighs 38,000 lbs. One in Vienna, cast in 1711, weighs 40,000 lbs.; and in Olmiitz is another weighing about the same. The famous bell called Su-sanne of Erfurt is considered to be of the finest bell metal, containing the largest proportion of silver; its weight is about 30,000 lbs.; it was cast in 1497. At Montreal, Canada, is a larger bell than any in England, weighing 29,400 lbs.; it was imported in 1843 for the Notre Dame cathedral.
In the opposite tower of the cathedral is a chime of 10 bells, the heaviest of which weighs 6,043 lbs., and their aggregate weight is 21,800 lbs. - There are few bells of large size in the United States. The heaviest ever made here was the alarm bell formerly on the city hall in New York. It was cast in Boston, and weighed about 23,000 lbs. Its diameter at the mouth was about 8 ft., its height about 6 ft., and thickness at the point where the clapper struck 6 1/2 or 7 in. The wooden tower in which it was hung having been burned in 1858, it was placed in a separate tower in the rear of the hall. In 1867 it was dropped and broken in the process of removal, and recast in smaller fire bells. The bell now on Independence Hall in Philadelphia is celebrated as being connected with the ever memorable 4th of July, 1776, when it first announced by its peal the declaration then made, the most important event in the history of our country. It was imported from England in 1752, and, having been cracked on trial by a stroke of the clapper, was recast in Philadelphia under the direction of Mr. Isaac Nor-ris, to whom we are probably indebted for the following inscription, which surrounds the bell near the top, from Leviticus xxv. 10: "Proclaim liberty throughout all the land, unto all the inhabitants thereof." Immediately beneath this is added: "By or-der of the assembly of the province of Penna for the State House in Phil'." Under this again, "Pass & Stow, Phil'., MDCCLIII." In 1777, during the occupation of Philadelphia by the British, the bell was removed to Lancaster. After its return it was used as a state house- bell until the erection of the present steeple with its bell in 1828. Then it ceased to be used excepting on extraordinary occasions.
Finally it was removed to its present appropriate resting place. Its last ringing, when it was unfortunately cracked, was in honor of a visit of Henry Clay to Philadelphia. There are no other bells of particular interest in this country. Those used upon the fire alarm towers in our cities are from 10,000 to 11,000 lbs. in weight. They are hung in a fixed position and struck by a hammer, instead of being turned over. - Bells have been made of various metals. In France iron was formerly used, and in other parts of Europe brass was a common material. In Sheffield, England, the manufacture of cast-steel bells was introduced several years since. The material is said to have the advantages over the ordinary composition of greater strength and less weight and cost. They have been used in various parts of the United States for schools, manufactories, and steamboats, and for churches, ranging in weight from 100 to over 5,000 lbs. They appear to have given satisfaction, and to possess the power of sending their tones to a great distance. They are said to be well adapted for fog, fire, and alarm bells. The smaller steel bells do not compare so favorably in tone with bells made of bell metal as do those of larger size.
Steel bells are also made in Germany. As the swinging of heavy bells often endangers the towers in which they are hung, it is of no little consequence to reduce as much as possible their weight. Steel bells are cast by pouring the contents of the steel pots into the bell mould instead of into ordinary ingot moulds. Bell metal is an alloy of copper and tin in no fixed proportion, but varying from 66 to 80 per cent, of copper, and the remainder tin. Other metals are also often introduced, as zinc, with the object of adding to the shrillness of the sound, silver to add to its softness, and also lead. Dr. Thompson found an English bell metal to consist of copper 800 parts, tin 101, zinc 56, and lead 43. Cymbals and gongs contain 81 copper and 19 tin. Mr. Denison, of England, thinks the use of silver is entirely imaginary, and that there is no reason for believing it could be of any service. He condemns the use of all other materials but copper and tin, and advises that contracts for bells stipulate that the alloy shall consist of at least 20 per cent, of tin, and the remainder copper. Three and a half to one is perhaps the best proportion. - The tone of a bell depends upon its diameter, height, and thickness. The German bell founders have a rule which regulates these dimensions.
The thickness of the sound bow where the clapper strikes, and which is the thickest part, being equal to 1, the height should he 12, the diameter at the mouth 15. the diameter of the top 7 1/2, and the weight or clapper 1/40 of that of the bell. The tone is regulated by the thickness, a thick bell having a higher note than one that is thin. As the precise pitch cannot be attained in casting, the bell is toned afterward, either by reducing the thickness where the hammer strikes, to produce a lower note, or by chipping away the edge and reducing the diameter to make it more acute. In conformity to the laws of acoustics, the number of vibrations of a bell varies in inverse ratio with its diameter, or the cube root of its weight; so, for a series of hells forming a complete octave, the diameters should go on increasing with the depth of tone, as for do, 1; re, -8/9; me, 4/5; fa, 3/4; sol, 2/3: lai 3/5; si, 8/15; do, 1/2. - A work on church bells, by the Rev. W. 0. Lukis, appeared at London in 1857. The Rev. Alfred Gatty has published "The Bell, its Early History and Uses" (London, new ed., 1848), and Mr. E. B. Denison's "Lectureson Church Building" treats of bells.
Bolshoi, Moscow, 21 ft. high, 18 ft. diam.
Tsar Kolokol. Moscow, 19 ft. 3 in. high, about 19 ft. diam.
Peking. 14 1/2 ft. high, 13 ft. diain.
Erfurt, 10 1/4 ft. h 8 1/2 ft. diam.
Great Bell of Parliament, 5 ft. 9 in. h., 7 ft. 1 in. d.
Liberty Bell, Philadelphia.
Bell, a central county of Texas, watered by Little river and its head streams, the Leon and Lampasas; area, 1,097 sq. m.; pop. in 1870, 0,771, of whom 1,104 were colored. It has a rolling surface, and a soil of sandy loam, well adapted to pasturage. Forests of cottonwood and live oak cover about one fourth of the county. There are several chalybeate springs. The chief productions in 1870 were 358,360 bushels of Indian corn, 14,296 of sweet potatoes, 2,896 hales of cotton, and 19,575 lbs. of wool. There were 7,4:25 horses, 4,430 milch cows, 1,494 working Oxen, 30,976 other cattle, 9,718 sheep, and 12,467 swine. Capital, Belton.