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.

Tour the Bell Tower at Washington National Cathedral

Where do you go to hear bells ring? If you’re at Washington National Cathedral, the walled Bishop’s Garden is the best place to experience the tintinnabulation. That’s where we found ourselves last Sunday morning, amiably wandering among the roses, boxwood, and splashes of seasonal color, when we met Mark Fitzpatrick. At the National Bell Festival, we’ll find any excuse to talk about bells, so with ringing cascading down from overhead, we invited Mark into the tower to see the bells up close.

What is Mexico’s Grito de Dolores?

Today, a shout rises from the Plaza de la Constitución (commonly called the Zócalo), beneath the balcony of the National Palace in México City. ¡Viva México! Over half a million spectators join in the cry. It is the start of México’s independence celebrations and, like any good event, it features the ringing of a bell.

Diary of a Southern Bell: CSS Alabama

In the autumn of 1984, a French minesweeper scouring the English Channel happened upon a most curious discovery: the wreckage of a Civil War-era commerce raider belonging to the Confederate States of America. How did this vessel come to lay a mere seven nautical miles off the coast of Cherbourg, France, and what pieces of history did the shallow waters preserve?
 

Bells as Propaganda: the 1936 Berlin Olympic Bell

We’re back with more Olympic history! This time with more sinister undertones. The year was 1936 and Adolf Hitler, craving the adoration of the world, was eager to portray a perfect German society during Berlin’s hosting of the 11th Summer Olympic Games. You and I both know life was not perfect at home – atrocities and civil rights abuses were already mounting before the start of World War II.

A Look Back at the 2012 London Olympic Bell

It’s the start of the Olympics! And while much can be argued about the propriety of hosting the Games during a pandemic, we certainly applaud the spirit of unity in diversity and friendly athletic competition the Games inspire. To mark the occasion, we look back on a recent ceremony full of campanological delight.
 

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. 

Pages