“Velvetone Bell Company” Foot-Plunger Bell

I showed this to about half a dozen people on the way home after buying it, not a single person could tell me what the hell it was before I told them!

But it’s neat, yeah?

What we got here is a “Velvetone Bell Company” streetcar or horse-carriage bell, from the late 1800s. Bells like this were found on streetcars, cablecars, trams, horse-carriages, and even some early motor-cars, and were used by the driver to warn people ahead of approaching traffic.

Bells like this featured a removable plunger, usually connected to the bell by a short chain (as you can see in the picture), which could be pressed down into the bell using the driver’s foot, which activated the spring-tensioned striker-merchanism, which rang the bell…very loudly! Twice!

This bell hadn’t been used in 50 or more years, and so as a result, the striker mechanism inside the bell was extremely stiff. After a few experimental ding-dings, the whole thing seized up! So I pulled it apart…

…then cleaned, and lubricated the striker mechanism…

…to get it ringing again. Although this looks extremely crude, it’s actually a very effective mechanism. The chunk of brass on the right with the screw in it is the hammer that hits the side of the bell. The rest of it is all part of the spring-mechanism that jerks it back and forth to ring at each push-pull motion of the plunger.

The last thing I did was to re-reddify the red background on the plaque at the top of the bell…

…and put in some modern screws. I’ll replace these with brass ones one day, if I can find any.