Reviving an art form of the turn of the 20th century, Natalia plays a set of 4-in-hand hand bells made
in 1911 by the Deagan manufacturers. These bells were created for one person to use and are
exceedingly rare today.
The bells are tuned to 8 notes, all together comprising a 'C' scale. There are 4 graduated and tuned bells mounted in an East West, North South position with one handle in the center. Since the clappers are struck at right angle to one another it is possible to sound one bell at a time. Mounted between each bell is a tube/resonator. There is one tube (with a small opening at the top of each) for each bell. The bells dimensions range from 2 1/2" diameter to 3 3/4" diameter. The clappers only move one way - forward and back and have little felt pads on one side. These pads are what silences the bells when the clapper strikes on the backward stroke. In other words, the hammer strikes the musical note, and upon return to the other side the felt pad silences it.
Such bells were first manufactured in the US by the Mayland's Brooklyn, NY foundry, established by R.H. Mayland in 1866. This company was the first American firm to produce tuned musical handbells. Several years after Mayland had begun his handbell operations, the Chicago firm of J.C. Deagen, Inc., started producing tuned bells, including 4-in-hand bells, handbell sets, pullman (arch)chimes, tap bells, handbell carillons, chimes for organs, clocks, doorbells, vibraphones and xylophones. Both Mayland and Deagen discontinued their handbell operations, Deagen during the first world war, and Mayland during the 2nd world war. Government wartime restrictions on the use of metals was the major reason for the termination of handbell production. Deagan (no longer in business) was considered a premium manufacturer.
If you know of someone who plays/played 4-in-hand hand bells, please let us know and we will gladly publish the information here with credit to the informer.
Clarence Messick of Topeka, Kansas, is known to have played 4-in-hand hand bells in the first half of the 20th century, including on CBS. (photo appears in the 1944 book 'Travel Search For Bells'/A.C. Meyer, p.145).
AGEHR owns one 4-in-hand hand bell which they recieved either from the Mary Belle Nissley collection or from Ellen Jane Lorenz Porter's collection. The bell is in storage at the AGEHR Dayton office, waiting to be displayed at a proposed museum of handbells.
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