Insights

Ever look up and wonder: what the bell? We do every day! We're here to bring you fascinating facts and curious clues to the world of campanology in the nation's capital, with musings on the bells, buildings, and people that make this city ring.

Beat the Heat with Seven Indoor Activities for the Family

As the relentless heat wave continues battering North America, we thought we’d drum-up some family-friendly activities that are perfect for an afternoon indoors – with air conditioning on full blast. These crafts and activities are suitable for all ages and interests. Ring a bell, read a poem, play a game…there are so many ways to have some fun!
 

A Carillon Resounds Over North Carolina State University

It took 100 years, but finally, after an extensive $6.5 million restoration, bells ring out over North Carolina State University. The century-long saga began in 1920 when the university conceived of a central bell tower to honor alumni lost in World War I. A year later, the cornerstone was laid. By the 1930s, the towering construction project designed by architect William Henry Deacy was nearly completed by the Works Progress Administration. 

What Is a Strike Tone?

When a bell is struck, it rings. Easy, right? That is, however, an overly simplistic description of the acoustical vibrations that emanate from a struck bell. Bells are deceptively complex musical instruments. Each sound comprises dozens of slightly inharmonic partial tones that die out quickly, giving way to more dominant partials which together form the note immediately perceived by the human ear. This ‘note of first impression’ is called the strike tone, or sometimes also called the fundamental or tap note.
 

Hear the Liberty Bell Ring on D-Day

On June 6, 1944, the Allied invasion of the beaches of Normandy began. Operation Neptune, the naval component of Operation Overlord (commonly referred to as D-Day), was the largest seaborne invasion in history. The operation began the liberation of France and marked the turning point for Allied victory in World War II.

Even Presidents Ring Bells

Bell ringing is as American as apple pie. Since the first tolls of the Liberty Bell proclaimed the birth of a new nation, bells have been a symbol of enduring freedom, patriotism, and indefatigable spirit. In prosperity or hardship, peace or conflict, the simple act of ringing a bell has united us around our common destiny. It makes since then that presidents should ring any bell in sight.

For as long as Americans have let freedom ring, there have been presidents who have led the tolling. We’ve collected a few of those moments. 

Campanology Word of the Day: Verdigris

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” These stirring words likely conjure for you an image of a draped figure, rising from the Hudson with torch held aloft, her aspect washed in a greenish, eggy blue. However, you may be surprised to know the Statue of Liberty wasn’t always this color. 

When Nazis Took All the Bells

Between 1939 and 1945, the National Socialist German Workers' Party under Adolf Hitler – the Nazis – confiscated over 175,000 bells from towers throughout Europe. That staggering sum is only part of the devastation and horror exacted by the Nazis during World War II, but it speaks to the plundering of identity and soul that made the Nazi occupation so catastrophic. 

A Bell and an Antipope

In June 1439, the Council of Basel deposed Pope Eugene IV, but there was a problem: did they have the authority? The Pope certainly didn’t think so and quickly moved to excommunicate the prelates, but they pressed forward with the election of Amadeus VIII, a Savoyard nobleman who restyled himself as the new Pope Felix V.

An Introduction to Bell Inscriptions

Inscriptions on bells are some of the most pristinely preserved records from centuries past. It is writing cast in bronze. At times curious and whimsical, beautiful and quaint, or downright secretarial – such as inscriptions attesting to the date of manufacture or listing the names of those donors whose patronage made the bell founding possible – bell inscriptions offer a window into the humors, aesthetics, and values of bygone eras.

Campanology Word of the Day: Tintinnabulation

Across the centuries, men and women have tried to capture into words the ephemeral ringing notes of a bell. But how do you describe the different moods that a bell might evoke? Bells are certainly a most expressive instrument and our vocabulary has expanded to more acutely describe the many nuances of a ringing bell.

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