Centuries of Bell Ringing Form an American Tradition

The World Peace Bell in Newport, KY

The clang of a bell certainly calls attention.  Whether it’s done to herald an announcement, celebrate a marriage or simply call the family in to dinner, bells have been ringing all around the world and throughout history.  Bells placed in particular locations had specific purposes and some of those have made their way into our culture as icons of the past.  Others are more practical and have played a big role in family life for centuries.

Country Dinner Bells

Picture a Western ranch or a sprawling Midwest farm.  With the family and farm staff hard at work and scattered across the property a dinner bell became an essential tool.  There were no loudspeakers to call in the crew and no microwaves to heat up the food if it got cold.  Everyone needed a signal that it was time to gather for a hot meal and the dinner bell was a perfect solution.

Triangular dinner bells were popular throughout western culture, mainly for their practicality.  Since it was flat and easy to carry, this instrument was carted across the country with frontier families and used during cattle drives.  Many still associate the triangular bell with cowboys and the adventure of the Wild West.

Traditionally formed bells were a more stationary option, often mounted to posts or the wall just outside the door of the farmstead.  Taking their cue from the famous bells of history, beginning in the 1800’s and beyond, these smaller versions were indispensable for country life from coast to coast.

Bells of the Past

As heralds of both good and bad news, bells have an important place in history.  They become landmarks and legends in their own right and are often imbedded in the very fabric of culture.  What makes bells so special?  What is it about these metal forms that draw so much admiration and even dependence?

Bells were often installed in the center of a town or in a place of prominence at someone’s home.  Specially crafted and made from valuable materials like bronze and brass, quality bells are truly an art form with a distinctly beautiful shape.  The sound that came from the bell was also important and sometimes a bell was recast again and again to achieve a certain level of sound.

Such was the case with the Liberty Bell, which was melted down after cracking on the first ring in 1752.  Americans Pass and Stow recast the bell the first time, only to do the whole job again in 1753 – this time with the hope of creating a better sounding ring.  In June of that year the Liberty Bell was hoisted to the top of Independence Hall (called State House at the time) and has been honored as a reminder of freedom for centuries.

Across the Atlantic another bell sits in a strange predicament.  Many people know the bell’s name, but very few actually associate that name correctly.  Big Ben in London, England is not the clock tower at Westminster as so many people assume it to be, but actually the name of the bell inside that tower.  Cast by Whitehall Bell Foundry, the same skilled firm that originally cast the Liberty Bell over a hundred years before, Big Ben was named after British MP Sir Benjamin Hall.

The Fascination Carries On

Another famous bell has recently emerged in the US.  The World Peace Bell is found in Newport, Kentucky and serves as a monument to the dedication and commitment needed for world peace.  Installed in 1999, the World Peace Bell has the distinction of being the world’s largest free swinging bell.

For a touch of nostalgia, a hint of down home charm or simply as a wonderful conversation piece many people are installing a bell in their yard.  As a unique doorbell or a patio accessory that creates subtle ambiance, the dinner bell is a wonderful idea.  Outdora offers a selection of affordable, quality country bells made from aluminum for a durable, attractive finish or available in a natural patina for a rustic feel.  Complete with mounting brackets and even decorative accessories, these bells are distinct and will stand out as a true showpiece on the patio, in your yard or on the porch.

Both practical in nature and artistic in form, bells have a big part in our history and culture.  In the center of town or included in home décor, a bell is always a magnet for fascination and an easy way to gather attention.


Diana Dart was born into the patio design business.  Working in her family contracting business for years, she’s now part owner and loves spending her time helping homeowners create an oasis in their backyards.  She’s also published countless articles about gardening, curb appeal and landscaping online and in various print publications.

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