Bicentennial Bells - A Signature Event for
Every Ohio County
The Ohio Bicentennial Commission is casting commemorative Bicentennial
bells on site in each of Ohio's 88 counties. The project is the
signature event for the whole state, and serves as a guarantee that
every Ohio county will take part in and benefit from the Bicentennial.
|A Verdin craftsman burnishes a bicentennial
bell after removing it from its mold.
Stephen C. George, executive director of the Bicentennial Commission,
said that 200 years ago, as the Northwest Territory opened, there
was a great need for bells in Ohio schools, courthouses and churches.
"Bells no longer order our lives as in years past, but they continue
to inspire," George said. "This project, while re-establishing
the tradition of early bell-founders, guarantees a lasting Bicentennial
legacy for the generations that follow."
Bicentennial bells also will provide a thematic tribute to the
state's manufacturing and industrial roots, just as Bicentennial
barns, a hallmark of the celebration, honor Ohio's agrarian heritage.
In planning such an ambitious project, the Commission enlisted the
world's largest bell company. The Cincinnati-based Verdin Company,
in business since 1842, has provided bells and ringing equipment
to more than 30,000 churches. Perhaps best known for creating and
casting the 33-ton, 12-foot-tall World Peace Bell for the millennium
celebration, Verdin commissions include the famed "Big Ben"
bell in London and the 1804 San Juan Capistrano mission bells.
Verdin has assembled a "foundry on wheels" that will
make the production of each bell a two-day "out-in-the-open"
public event, often coinciding with a festival or existing activity.
The bells will be handmade in the centuries-old European tradition,
when bells were cast close by a structure to minimize the high cost
and difficulty of transportation. "This is probably the most
exciting aspect of the Bicentennial Bell Project," said company
president Jim Verdin, a fifth-generation bell maker. "Casting
bells in all 88 counties will allow Ohioans to experience firsthand
The bells, to be molded in the "American" style of the
Liberty Bell, will be personalized with a county name, forging date,
the Great Seal of Ohio and the Bicentennial logo. Each county will
be responsible for deciding where their casting takes place and
where the finished bell is displayed.
Ohioans Will Experience
Each Bicentennial bell will be handmade on-site in the centuries
old European tradition, when bells were cast close by a structure
to minimize the high cost and difficulty of transportation. The
bell, to be molded in the "American" style of the Liberty
Bell, will be personalized with the county name, forging date, the
Great Seal of Ohio and the Bicentennial logo. The castings will
be two-day "out-in-the-open" events.
What Will Take Place: Day One
Five hundred pounds of bronze bricks, called ingots, are added to
the furnace. All material involved in the bell casting is produced
|Molten bronze is poured into the bell mold.
Over a period of two hours, the furnace is heated to more than
2,000 degrees. While the furnace is heating, a personalized bell
mold is being prepared. The mold, customized for your county, is
held in place by a mixture of more than 200 pounds of sand, and
resin. The mold is contained in a box, called a flask. It is made
of steel and weighs more than 500 pounds.
Once the molten metal reaches a temperature of 2,200 degrees, it
is ready to be poured into the mold. Using a specially designed
crane, bell casters will transfer the molten metal first into a
ladle, and then into the mold. The bell then is left to cool overnight.
What Will Take Place: Day Two
Using a large sledgehammer, the ceremonial first swings crack the
hardened, sand-resin mixture. Look for the dark, bell-shaped cone
of sand, which helped form the bell's interior.
The bell is sandblasted, the first step in cleaning and smoothing
the surface of the bell.
Over four hours, the bell is polished to a high shine. Some sections
are treated with stain and polished again to produce a unique look.
The bell is ready to be dedicated and rung for the first time.
Your County's Role:
Each county is responsible for deciding where and how the finished
bell is displayed. Options include a "yoke," from which
a bell is suspended, or a "cradle," on which a bell rests.
Bell structures are good project opportunities for Boy Scout troops
and clubs, and partnership avenues for local businesses and foundations.