Milestones in North American Traditional Carillons

Although the history of traditional carillons in North America spans scarcely more than a century at this point in time, there are numerous milestones along the way.  The list below attempts to present, in approximately chronological order, many of the "firsts" which have occurred, as well as many of the records which were set, however briefly they were held.


Milestone years and events

Holy Trinity Church, Philadelphia, PA
The third carillon-sized tower-bell instrument (25 bells), and the first to have a traditional keyboard, was cast by van Aerschodt of Belgium.  Because its tuning left much to be desired by modern standards, it was largely ignored by the culture which grew up around the later instruments (see below).  Nevertheless, It deserves to be called the first true carillon in North America.

Iowa State Agricultural College, Ames, IA
The first modern tuned bells imported to North America were installed by the Taylor foundry of England as a 10-bell chime.  This would eventually form the basis of a 50-bell carillon, after additions from the same foundry in 1929, 1956 and 1967.

Metropolitan Church, Toronto, ON
The 23 bells dedicated in April, from Gillett & Johnston of England, formed the first harmonically-tuned (i.e., "modern") carillon installation in North America.

Church of Our Lady of Good Voyage, Gloucester, MA
The 23 bells dedicated in July, from Taylor of England, formed the first modern carillon installation in the USA.

House of Hope Presbyterian Church, St.Paul, MN
A 28-bell carillon by Michiels was the first from that foundry on this continent.

St.Peter's Episcopal Church, Morristown, NJ
When its first 35 bells (by Taylor) were dedicated in April of 1924, this was the largest carillon.

St.Stephen's Episcopal Church, Cohasset, MA
Expansion of this G&J carillon from the 23 bells installed in 1924 to a total of 43 made it for a short time the largest carillon.

Park Avenue Baptist Church, New York, NY
Installation of 53 bells by G&J set a record for the largest carillon in the world.  Its keyboard was the first to have a new arrangement, beginning with bass G rather than C, and setting a precedent for a long series of magnificent heavy instruments (many by Taylor) which would eventually become known as "grand carillons."  (In 1930 these bells were moved to Riverside Church to become the core of an even larger instrument - see 1930 below.)

The Mercersburg Academy, Mercersburg, PA
The 43-bell G&J carillon was the second heaviest installed to date, having a total weight of 38,217 lbs, with bass B-flat of 7,826 lbs.

City Hall, Albany, NY
The first municipal carillon in America was made by Taylor, having 47 notes.  It had 60 bells, with the top octave duplicated; the 13 duplicates were later removed.  (See article on Taylor's doubled trebles.)

St.Chrysostom's Episcopal Church, Chicago, IL
Its 43 bells from G&J formed the first English-made carillon to be installed west of the eastern seaboard.

St. James Church, Danbury, CT
The 23 bells from Meneely of Watervliet, NY, were installed in two phases, and form the first American-made carillon.

Trinity Reformed Church, Philadelphia, PA
The 25 bells cast by Meneely/Watervliet, dedicated in 1930, formed the second American-made carillon.

Other installations in the 1920s
1923 - Andover (Taylor), Plainfield (G&J)
1924 - Birmingham AL (Taylor)
1925 - Simcoe (G&J)
1926 - Guelph (G&J)
1927 - Germantown (Taylor); Ottawa, Detroit, Princeton, Toronto (all G&J)
1928 - Springfield MA (48 Taylor), Bloomfield Hills (Taylor), Rochester MN (23 G&J), Norwood (50 G&J)
1929 - Lake Wales (53 Taylor), Ames expansion (Taylor), Indianapolis (50 Taylor), Nashville and Mariemont (both G&J)

Riverside Church, New York, NY
The 53 bells moved from Park Avenue Baptist Church (see 1925 above) were augmented by G&J to 72, producing the first carillon anywhere to surpass 5 octaves.  This expansion included what is still the heaviest carillon bell in the world--a bass C-natural of 40,926 lbs.  This carillon held the record of being the largest in the world until 1960 (see below), when it was surpassed in number of bells but not in weight.

University of Connecticut Carillon, Storrs Congregational Church, Storrs, CT
The 31 bells by Meneely/Watervliet formed the third American-made carillon, and the only one of those at a university.

Historical Note:In 1785, Col.Benjamin Hanks began one of the earliest American bellfoundries on Hanks Hill, within the boundaries of present-day Storrs.  His son, Julius Hanks, carried on the business near Albany, NY, beginning in 1808 and was succeeded by his apprentice, Andrew Meneely, in 1826.  Thus began the lineage of Meneely bellfounders who eventually produced the carillon for Storrs.

The University of Chicago, Chicago, IL
The 72 bells placed in the chapel tower were the largest single installation by Gillett & Johnston, although slightly less heavy than the two-stage installation in New York City (see above).  It remains the second-heaviest carillon in the world.

Cathedral of Christ the King, Hamilton, ON
This was the first carillon produced by the oldest surviving bellfoundry in the world - Whitechapel.

Alfred University, Alfred, NY
This was the initial installation of what were long thought to be the oldest bells in any North American carillon--18 by Pieter Hemony (1674), 16 (now 12) by Joris du Mery (1737) and one by Andreas van den Gheyn (1784), all collected in Europe.  In fact, the bells were forgeries made by Omar Michaux, who claimed to have collected them.

New Brunswick Theological Seminary, New Brunswick, NJ
One of the first two carillons imported from the Dutch foundry of Vanbergen was a lightweight two-octave instrument that was displayed as the "garden carillon" of the Dutch Pavilion at the New York World's Fair before being installed here in 1940.  (In a later re-installation here, it lost its traditional keyboard.)

Callie Self Memorial Baptist Church, Greenwood, SC
One of the first two carillons imported from the Dutch foundry of Vanbergen was a two-octave instrument that was displayed in the Dutch Pavilion the New York World's Fair before being installed here in 1941.  In 1948, it was enlarged to three octaves by Vanbergen.  (In a later modification, it lost its traditional keyboard.)

Other installations in the 1930s
1931 - Lincoln (Taylor), Wellesley and New Milford (both G&J)
1932 - Durham and Hartford (both Taylor)
1936 - Ann Arbor (Taylor)
1939 - Luray (Taylor)

Rainbow Bridge Tower, Niagara Falls, Ontario
First post-World War II carillon, by Taylor.

First Presbyterian Church, Jackson, TN
The 47 bells of the first modern carillon from Paccard of France were cast in this year, though not installed until 1955.

St.Martin's Episcopal Church, New York, NY
First post-World War II carillon installed in the USA, by the vanBergen foundry, Heiligerlee, the Netherlands.

Convent of the Transfiguration, Glendale, OH
First traditional carillon installed in North America by the Petit & Fritsen foundry, Aarle-Rixtel, the Netherlands; it replaced an older, smaller one cast by J. Prower Symonds at the Vanduzen foundry in Cincinnati.

Instituto Politecnico Nacional, Mexico City, DF
The first carillon in Mexico (unfortunately now defunct) contained 42 bells from Petit & Fritsen.

The Netherlands Carillon, Arlington, VA
This gift from the people of the Netherlands to the people of the USA was a joint project by all three Dutch bellfounders (Eijsbouts, Petit & Fritsen, vanBergen).

Central Christian Church, San Antonio, TX
The first complete four-octave carillon from Petit & Fritsen.

Kirk in the Hills Presbyterian Church, Bloomfield Hills, MI
The 77 bells by P&F hold the record for largest number of bells in any carillon in the world.  (The number was later matched by another instrument, but has not been exceeded.)

Washington National Cathedral, Washington, DC
The Gloria in Excelsis central tower is the only tower in the world to contain both a carillon (53 bells by Taylor) and a ring (10 bells by Whitechapel).
(There are other institutions which own both a carillon and a ring, but in separate towers.  A few other institutions have two bell instruments in the same tower, but not in this particular combination.)

Torre Insignia, Tlatelolco, Mexico City, DF
The world's tallest carillon tower (at 416 feet) is actually the topmost section of a wedge-shaped building originally constructed for a national bank.

Second Presbyterian Church, Newark, OH
The lightest traditional carillon has a bass bell of only 119 pounds, and transposes two octaves above concert pitch.

First Church of Christ (Congregational), West Hartford, CT
The only American carillon purely by Whitechapel began with 24 bells; it was enlarged to 50 bells by Whitechapel in 1985.

School of Music Carillon, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN
The only practice carillon in North America was installed at the same time as the concert-class Metz Carillon on the same campus.  Both are from the Eijsbouts bellfoundry, Asten, the Netherlands.

Crystal Cathedral, Garden Grove, CA
First carillon made of bells with major-third partials instead of the standard minor-third; by Eijsbouts.

Principia College, Elsah, IL
First complete carillon by the new American bellfoundry of Meeks, Watson & Co.  Unfortunately, the bells were replaced by those of a different maker in 1999.

See also milestones in other North American bell instruments
and milestones in North American chimes and local bellfounding.

Return to Indexes to traditional carillons in North America.

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This page was created 1997/02/13 and last revised 2022/11/19.

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