Beth writes and asks:
My name is Beth and I live in Riverside,Ca. I am posting to ask for your help in regards to a bell I recently acquired at an auction. The bell is 15" at the mouth and nearly 15" high. Around the rim of the bell is inscribed "JUNIPERO SERRA 1713-1784 CALIFORNIA". There are two Franciscian insignias, one between 1713 and 1784 and the other between CALIFORNIA and JUNIPERO. There are also two Raincross insignias on either side of the body of the bell. The Raincross insignia was designed and patented by Frank Miller, founder of the Mission Inn in Riverside,Ca, in 1907. In 1908, he "gave" it to the city of Riverside. It is our city symbol and is used throughout the city, on everything from city stamps, lampposts, jewerly, bridges, even tattoos!
I have found this same bell in the lobby of the Mission Inn, which is displayed in a wooden form near the entrance. I have found reference to two bells that were once displayed in wooden Raincross forms at the east end of the lobby ("The Mission Inn's History and Artifacts" by Esther Klotz,1983). I am having a difficult time finding any other information or reference to these two bells. The Mission Inn Museum cannot find any information on them either, as they are not logged in the catalog records of over 800 bells that were once at the Mission Inn.
After Frank Miller and his children passed away, the grandchildren sold the Inn, and it went downhill quickly. Many of the articles that were once there were sold or stolen or thrown away. Many of the records and guest books have yet to be found.
What I am trying to find out is when these bells were cast. For some reason, I seem to think that Frank Miller had them cast for the lobby about 1907-8. But as I said, I cannot find it in writing. I have read thru so many books and websites, I don’t have a clue where I got the information from, or if I even did. I did speak to the current owner of the California Bell Co, and he said that his company could, or likely did, cast them, but since he is not the original owner of the company, he could not be certain. He seemed to think that it might have been cast around 1920 or earlier.
There are no other markings on this bell, except on the top of the shoulder(?). I am not positive it is even a mark. But if I had to guess, I would say possibly B 13 . I cannot make it out for sure. Could this be a number that would identify the proper clapper, maybe? (By the way, it is missing its clapper.)
The questions I am trying to get answered are these:
1) what the letters and/or numbers might possibly mean
2) who made the bell
3) When the bell was made
4) If anyone knows where I might find more info and/or pics of the bells when they were in the lobby
5) Where I might be able to purchase a clapper for it (perferably an old one from the early 1900's)
6) What size it would need to be
7) If anyone could give me a collectors guesstamate as to what the market value might be.
Just thru trying to find out information I have had several offers, yet I'm in the dark as to how much would be appropriate, or even in the ball park. I've had offers from $400.00 to $3,300.00. I haven’t pursued the sale of it yet. I've been too busy trying to find more info. If there is anyone out there that could help me, I would be most grateful.
This inquiry was originally sent to the ABA's Internet Coordinator. Responses are opinions of individuals based on their personal research and knowledge.