Deagan Pear Shaped Handbells


1950’s-1960's, USA. Rare. Originally, pear shaped handbells were manufactured by J.C. Deagan Co., Chicago, IL in the early 1900’s.  Deagan’s patterns were purchased by JenCo, Inc. of Decatur, IL in the 1950’s.  I have a 2 octave chromatic set (C5-C7).  They are made of brass instead of bronze and that, along with the distinct pear shape, affects their tone.  My choir says they sound like grandfather clock chimes!  The outside of the castings are polished smooth while the insides are shiny, but have lathe marks.  The clapper mechanism on my set looks like a hybrid between Trusonic and Whitechapel clappers.  The springs are similar to Whitechapel, but are covered with gray foam instead of felt.  The rectangular clapper shaft and disk shaped clapper head resemble Trusonic clappers.  The clapper head is covered with a black rubber cushion and a screw affixes it to the shaft.  A nylon boot at the other end of the clapper shaft fits into the staple.  The handles are black plastic.  A440.

These bells vary widely from set to set, depending on when they were manufactured.  Differences  include “Jen Co DECATUR” and “PAKISTAN” cast into the outside of the bell; cylindrical clapper shafts; pronounced lathe marks on the outside of the castings; insides of castings that are still rough and mottled; white plastic or leather handles with gold pitch designations; clappers that were merely metal balls suspended from wire; and clappers with leather pegs, some with a screw to adjust the striking direction of the clapper head. The tone quality of the polished bells is far superior to the “rustic” older (pics 4 & 5) specimens. Picture #7 shows adjustable clapper head. Pictures 6 & 7 (restored by Marlow Cowan) are courtesy of David Harris and The Raleigh Ringers.