Bevin Bell Factory
The Bevin Bell Factory is a family-owned bell foundry located in East Hampton, Connecticut. The company was founded by brothers William Bevin, Chauncey Bevin, and Abner Bevin in 1832. They were later joined by a fourth brother, Philo Bevin. Bevin Brothers is the only remaining bell manufacturer in East Hampton and still remains in the Bevin family to this day. Through the years the Bevin Brothers made sleigh bells, house bells, cow bells, sheep bells, door bells, and ship’s bells.
It’s a Wonderful Life Bell
Did you know, Bevin Bells made the actual bell in the iconic holiday classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” You remember the bell ringing on the Christmas tree as Clarence, the angel, gets his wings. Now you can own a remake of the It’s a Wonderful Life bell. Beautifully engraved with “It’s a Wonderful Life,” silver-plated and presented in a red velvet bag (or you can call us and ask for black velvet, if you prefer). The bell has a memorable ring that will bring you right back to the movie. It is 2 3/4″ tall, comes with a red ribbon for hanging and makes the ideal holiday gift.
Visit BevinBells.com for information
Notable Bevin Bells
All of the Salvation Army Christmas bells.
The bell used to indicate the start and finish of the New York Stock Exchange trading.
Championship Boxing bells.
A bell aboard the U.S.S. Maine.
The bell used in the 1946 film It’s a Wonderful Life.
The cowbell played by Will Ferrell in the Saturday Night Live sketch “More Cowbell”.
The Bevin Brothers
The Bevin Bell Brothers have a long and rich history beginning with William Bevin, Chauncey Bevin, and Abner Bevin who started the bell factory in East Hampton, then called Chatham, Connecticut in 1832. They were later joined by a fourth brother, Philo Bevin. started the bell factory in East Hampton, then called Chatham, Connecticut in 1832.
The Bevin Bell website states it produced the first foot gong used in an automobile (the bell was patented in 1897). The foot gong is a bell that was beneath the floor of early automobiles and was rung by pressing it with your foot. It has since been replaced by the car horn.
During their long history of bell making the Bevin Brothers created souvenir bells for the presidential campaigns of Calvin Coolidge, Thomas Dewey and produced commemorative bells for the inauguration of President Bill Clinton. They also manufactured more than one million holiday bells for the Salvation Army.
Today the Bevin family, in its sixth generation is now being run by Matt Bevin with about 20 employees. The East Hampton Bell Factory now produces more than 200 kinds of bells. They are made mainly of aluminum, brass or steel, and range from 3/8 inch sleigh bells to 12-inch diameter gongs.
Each year Bevin Bell sells over a million bells including door bells, dinner bells, ice cream bells, commemorative wedding and anniversary bells, and trip gongs that are used in prize fights and the mining industries.
Among their customers is the Essex Steam Train & Riverboat in Essex who buys 15,000 ornamental bells from Bevin each year to give as Christmas keepsakes to children who ride the North Pole Express Train.
In the 19th century, The Town of East Hampton became the center of the manufacturing of bells. So many bells were made in East Hampton that the town was given the nick name Belltown USA. The first factory was constructed in 1808 by William Barton on Bevin Hill later renamed Barton Hill. During the 1800s, thirty firms were said to have built and run shops, or small factories producing bell and bell related products. The most prominent names include William Barton and the numerous Barton companies of his sons, Bevin Brothers Manufacturing Company, The N. N. Hill Brass Co., The East Hampton Bell Company, Watrous Manufacturing Company, and Gong Bell Manufacturing.
The bell companies that dominated the economy of East Hampton by making metal bells continued to flourish until the era of the bells used for horses and buggies gave way to the era of automobiles. Two firms continued to flourish into the 1950s by changing from making predominantly metal bells with bell toys being a minor part of their production in the 1800s, to primarily making bell toys. These two firms N. N. Hill Brass Co. and Gong Bell Mfg. Co., survived till the 1960s. The last remaining original operating bell shop, operated by Bevin Brothers, was razed by fire on May 27, 2012, but continues in full operation in a new East Hampton location; some other structures shut down while still structurally intact but remained unavailable for adaptive re-use, due to the presence of toxic substances at levels that resist remediation. Other mills, which were remediated or did not contain toxics, have been converted into offices, stores, and other small businesses.
On May 27, 2012, the Bevin Bell Factory in East Hampton, CT was struck by lightning resulting in a devastating fire. In the wake of the fire, Bevin Brothers’ future as a bell maker was uncertain.
Cause of Bevin Bell Factory fire undetermined
As the community comes to grips with the loss of such an important piece of history, East Hampton’s fire marshal said it’s likely a lightning strike started the massive fire.
The official cause of the fire has been ruled as undetermined, but investigators said that they believe the building was hit by lightning when powerful storms ripped through the area on Saturday afternoon and evening.
The Bevin fire roared for 19 hours, destroying the building and everything inside. While fire officials said they are leaning toward a lightning strike as the cause, they said explosions inside the building helped spread the fire.
They had to use 5 million gallons of water to get it out.
Stanley Bevin ran the bell factory for nearly 40 years before handing the reins over to his nephew. He said his thoughts are with the 26 employees who lost their jobs in this rubble.
“Many of those employees have been with us for so many, many, many years and what struck me about the whole afternoon was that our employees care as much as we do, maybe more,” Stanley Bevin said.
Gerald Plummer is one of those workers, and stopped by to take one final look at where he made a living.
“It’s just a sad, sad day. It meant a lot. It was a well known and historic factory in the Town of East Hampton,” he said.
Mathew Bevin hopes to rebuild, but knows that might not be realistic in the current economy.
The Bevin fire, which ignited just before midnight Sunday, was described by emergency officials as “very active” upon arrival.
Thirty fire departments from surrounding towns responded to the scene to assist East Hampton emergency crews.
Officials said multiple propane tanks were present on the property and dozens of nearby residents were evacuated from their homes as a precaution.
Several witnesses reported hearing explosions, most likely caused by the propane tanks.
A temporary shelter was set up at the high school for the evacuated residents while emergency crews battled the fire, but a majority of them were allowed to return to their homes later in the morning Sunday.
No injuries were reported as a result of the fire.
Welcome to the Official East Hampton, CT Historical Society Website. This site intends to provide information to the public about the Chatham Historical Society’s upcoming Calendar Events and Programs with the purpose of bringing together people interested in the History of Cobalt, Middle Haddam, and East Hampton, Connecticut.
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