[Bell Historians] Bell and iron founding

Alan Ellis alan_ellis at W-9EaWLyAzT0ym076tNH5bmOK-KHD-hux4SzuJaBP9yUvqjlx2qDjqX8V0Xka7hF7W3-rDlgDYCOi2o.yahoo.invalid
Mon Oct 19 18:58:30 BST 2009

Hello Carl,

I'm certain that someone will add far more information than I will here 
but bell foundries also need to include iron foundries too.

What about clappers?  Are these not cast?  Is forging not involved for 
the making of some clappers?

What about frame making - yesteryear involved cast iron frames. 
However, these were possibly not cast on-site due to their size.

Today we have steel frames which are often cut to size and pre-assembled 
on site.

Just a few thoughts on my very limited knowledge of bell foundries.

Best wishes


Carl Scott Zimmerman wrote:

> Andrew Wilby's recent letter of announcement regarding the future of
> the Taylor bellfoundry included the words "highest standards of bell
> and iron founding." I must confess to having been surprised at that.
> In spite of my long familiarity with the excellence of Taylor's work
> (having begun to learn carillon playing on a Taylor instrument more
> than half a century ago), I had never been aware that they were
> involved in casting iron.
> The history of foundry work in America, as revealed in the classified
> sections of business directories of major cities beginning in the
> middle of the 19th century, shows that almost all foundries worked in
> either iron or brass but not both. Those which advertised bells
> among their products were classified under "bell and brass foundries"
> (if not separately as bell founders), and never under "iron
> foundries." What little I know of the details of foundry processes
> indicates that there is a considerable difference between how brass &
> bronze are cast and how iron & steel are cast, so this separation of
> industries seemed a sensible matter of efficiency.
> To give one numerical example, around the 1880s the city of St.Louis
> had ten iron foundries which collectively employed about a thousand
> men (thus averaging about 100 employees each). At the same time, the
> city had 20 brass foundries which collectively employed only about
> 200 men - an average of 10 each. Both types of enterprise employed
> moulders, but "brass finisher" was an occupation which apparently had
> no significant equivalent in the iron & steel industry. Clearly the
> iron foundries were mass producing large quantities of relatively
> simple materiel, while the brass foundries were operating more at the
> craftsman or artisan level. Bronze bells fall into the latter
> category, and so the few brass & bronze foundries which managed to
> specialize in bells never advertised anything made of iron among
> their products. On this basis, I have assumed that bellfounders
> subcontracted the production of cast iron parts (yokes, side frames,
> etc.) to local ironmongers, though perhaps doing some blacksmithing
> themselves.
> Of course there are exceptions to every generalization. I know of a
> very small number of bronze bells which were made by large industrial
> operations that worked mainly in iron and steel. These were builders
> of ships or railroad engines, which must have had not only a large
> iron foundry for the bulk of their work but also a small brass
> foundry for specialized small parts (such as those needed in steam
> engines). Railroad bells, too, seem to have been made mostly by the
> engine builders, rather than being purchased from bellfoundries.
> (Again, there are exceptions.)
> Knowing that Taylors are the "largest bellfoundry in the world," I
> suppose I should not have been surprised to find that they also have
> an iron foundry, which I presume is used mainly for items needed in
> bell hanging. Nevertheless, I was.
> Unfortunately, all of the old American bellfoundries are closed, and
> all of the old American bellfounders and their immediate descendants
> are dead, so I cannot ask them how they actually operated in their
> heyday. Therefore I turn to those who have read thus far to ask how
> the European bellfoundries have operated in producing or obtaining
> the various cast iron fittings used in hanging their bells. To what
> extent have they cast their own, and to what extent have they
> subcontracted to other firms?
> Thanks in advance for any information you can provide!
> Carl


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