Meneely Bellfoundries - both of them

D Cawley dave at d...
Thu May 2 20:42:03 BST 2002

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It's significant that it was Clinton Meneely (Troy Bell Foundry NY) who gav=
e this interesting peroration. The policy of the Troy Foundry was not to tu=
ne bells, but it has to be remembered that there were two Meneely bell foun=
dries in Troy - the other, the older and larger of the two being=20
MENEELY & Co (Watervliet - West Troy - NY). It was established in 1826 by =
Clinton Meneely's great-grandfather, Andrew Meneely Sr; he was also the gra=
ndfather of Andrew R Meneely who introduced bell tuning at Watervliet, and =
of Andrew E and Alfred C Meneely who developed it and produced the first Am=
erican-cast carillons as a result.=20

Victorian bell foundry catalogues are nothing if entertaining and picturesq=
ue. I've a number of Watervliet catalogues and one from West Troy of this =
period, and nothing is said about tuning bells in either.=20=20

The 1912 Watervliet Catalogue, which must rank as one of the best in the fi=
eld is not silent on the subject of tuning. Andrew R Meneely wrote:

All our chime bells are made from SPECIAL DESIGN PATTERNS drafted in accord=
ance with most carefully calculated formulae to produce the richest, fulles=
t musical tone quality; individually having certain tones that are in tune =
or harmony and which we can positively discern and manipulate.....which we =
smooth out by the mechanical process employed ONLY at our foundry.
Every chime bell is thus a TONE-TEMPERED bell.....musically attuned within =
itself and as perfectly in tune with the others of the set as can possibly =
be made.....
We do not claim that chimes made many years ago according to the then known=
methods were models of perfection, for they simply COULD NOT be, nor can a=
ny foundry on earth produce even an approximately accurate set of bell chim=
es without SOME tuning after the bells are cast. What we claim is, that NO=
OTHER MAKE of chimes can fairly compare with such of our chimes as have be=
en made in accordance with our present system of tuning.

Direct evidence of tuning here, and no need to guess at who he meant by 'no=
founder on earth', with his relatives and competitors glaring across from=
the other side of the Hudson River! Elsewhere the same brochure notes:

.....the lettering of the Inscription is impressed into its (the mold's) su=
rface.....for all SINGLE bells.....In attuned work such as PEALS and CHIMES=
, the lettering is INVARIABLY CHASED on the surface of the bell after it ha=
s been fully tuned, and so in this class of work the lettering does not app=
ear in raised Characters.

Meneely therefore tuned his bells on the outside surface although his caril=
lon bells were often tuned within as well.

A R Meneely's concern seems at first to have been to get bells better in tu=
ne with one another; he purchased a new set of twelve forks from Koenig of =
Paris in 1894. Significantly about the time that John Taylor & Co were pro=
ducing the first True-Harmonic bells at Loughborough and that Alfred Lawson=
was showing Canon Simpson the door at Whitechapel. He would have known o=
f Monroe's study of bell tones, quoted by Clinton Meneely in his speech, o=
f Lord Rayleigh's experiments and later would come to read Canon Simpson's =
papers and to learn of Taylors' success. By 1907 (the year in which Gillet=
t & Johnston adopted 'Simpson' tuning, Meneely was writing of the practice =
of "major triad" tuning which gives exact 3rd and 5th intervals and while t=
he octave and bell or bells beyond the octave are sharp, the ear seems to d=
emand this, and chimes on this basis seem to prove the most satisfactory.

In his excellent study of both Meneely foundries in the Bulletin of the GCN=
A, XXVII, April 1978, pp 30-61, Bill de Turk, then the Guild's President ob=
serves (Meneely Bells an American Heritage):=20
In 1926, new tuning forks from England and a change in bell profile led to =
five-point, equal tempremant tuning in 1927. (Andrew E) Meneely's theory of=
good bells was that the octaves (hum-tone, fundamental, nominal) should be=
prominent and blend perfectly, the minor third and fifth being subdued. H=
aving always had trouble with their smaller bells, they changed to a thicke=
r profile about 1930.=20=20

One feels that Meneely was very well aware of what was going on across the =
Atlantic (he was on friendly personal terms with Pryce Taylor and Cyril Joh=
nston; with Taylor he discussed terms for uniting their carillon interest -=
with Jonston "we shall in business I am afraid always be cats". His adop=
ting of 5-point tuning with the features described above is interestingly c=
lose to Mears & Stainbank's adoption of it, and to their providing their fi=
rst American carillon at Hamilton Cathedral, Ontario.

Bill de Turk quotes a letter from A E Meneely describing bell tuning at the=
"The bells are spun in specially contructed lathes (tuning) and the pieces =
of stone are held against the outside surface of the bell by means of long =
lever". The carborundam stone which they were using was too hard and they =
were searching for a substitute media. This method of tuning appears as a =
slight scratch mark.....and can be easily overlooked.

There are in fact five Meneely carillons from Watervliet; Danbury, St James=
Conn. (23), (1928). Originally deigned to be a 15-bell chime it became a c=
arillon with the top bells 'on loan' as the result of a challenge from W G =
Rice to the firm to produce a carillon to rival the English ones about whic=
h he was so passionate. Kamiel Lefevere (Riverside Church carilloneur) wro=
te to Rice that although not as good ("yet") as the avaerage Taylor or G&J =
carillon, it has the merits and shows the possibilities, that Mr A Meneely =
is on the right road....." Reported to be now unplayable. The others are=

1929: Philadelphia Trinity E&R Church (25, all still there in the present c=
arillon of 4 octaves).
1931: Storrs, Conn., Congregational Church (31); still there, intact
1936: duPont Estate, Wilmington, Del., (30); still there, intact
1926-1938: Valley Forge, Washington National Carillon (38) - most remain in=
the present 56-bell instrument.

de Turk's article states=20
The Troy foundry disdained this idea of tuning, as did most other American =
bellfoundries, preferring to have the 'natural bell tone'. They believed t=
hat the proper design of a bell's profile brought itws partials into the co=
rrect relationship and that tuning by the removal of metal was practiced by=
founders whose bells had faulty profiles. (He) was not interested in cari=
llons, their method of making bells and chimes having proved successful eno=
ught over the years. In making a chime. three or four times the number of =
bells would be cast from which the most harmonious would be selected. The =
remaining ones were sold as single bells.

T. C. Lewis, eat your heart out.

There was a family reconciliation in the late 1940's; but it didn't save th=
e foundries which both closed in 1952, the Troy buildings being demolished =
soon after and the Watervliet Foundry in 1975. War not only destroys bells,=
but also bellfoundries as well. (de Turk). But thousands of remaining bell=
s, in this hemisphere and throughout the world, will continually remind us =
of two American bellfoundries named Meneely.

Apolgies to those who got the heading only to this a couple of hours ago ! =
My PC froze (must have heard the T Mears II eight ringing away in the backg=
round. Still, I like them)


----- Original Message -----=20
From: Chris Pickford=20
To: bellhistorians at
Sent: 01 May 2002 18:35
Subject: Re: [Bell Historians] Clinton Meneely and bell acoustics

Good stuff this! It reminds me of the letter written by Thomas Bond, the=
Burford bellfounder, to the Ringing World in 1926 (p.360). On tuning, Bond=
wrote "I believe the whole system [the five-toned principle] is a farce an=
d nonsense, and I believe the best results are had, only, from practical ex=
perience on the part of the bell founder"

----- Original Message -----=20
From: oakcroft13=20
To: bellhistorians at
Sent: Wednesday, May 01, 2002 4:57 PM
Subject: [Bell Historians] Clinton Meneely and bell acoustics

More on the Clinton Meneely talk from 1935 (link in previous=20
message). It is such a good read I am going to put it on my website,=20
if I can get permission. Part of it is a rant against 5-point tuning=20
(we would say true harmonic). His opinions, which I assume were=20
voiced primarily to protect his business, were based in part on the=20
carillon at Albany, which at the time was a 47-bell Taylor instrument=20
of 1928. Just two extracts will show the style:

On true-harmonic tuning: "some theoretical process of manufacture=20
which has the same scientific background as some of the expressions=20
found in modern advertisements."

On playing music on carillons: "to allow the playing of the more=20
complicated works on a set of bells is a feature of sensationalism=20
that belongs on the vaudeville stage."

Wonderful stuff!

Bill H

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