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Dayton Deeds Carillon

This article appeared in Steel Horizons Volume 2, No. 4 issue in 1942




     Music, laughter and good books; children, gardens and sports—these are the true relaxers and easers of strain.  It will be a long time, if ever, before America becomes war-weary.  We are a musical and home-loving people, a literate people, a race with a strong bent for the outdoors and a deep sense of humor, even when the joke is grim.  Do you remember the hopelessly besieged Marines who answered “Send us more Japs”, when asked what they needed?

     Of all these saving American virtues, music is perhaps the most powerful.  It is therefore in tune both with the times and with the national makeup to report that the newest of the six carillons in the U. S. will soon be dedicated.  This is the Deeds Carillon at Dayton, Ohio, which will be presented to the Miami Valley through the generosity of Mrs. Edward A. Deeds, wife of the chairman of the board of The National Cash Register Company.

     This bell tower, which will provide regular Sunday concerts and special programs on such holidays as Christmas and Easter, is striking in its architecture and advanced in its technical conception.  Designed by the prominent New York City firm of Reinhard & Hofmeister, architects for Rockefeller Center, the 170-foot main tower of the Deeds Carillon consists of four columns terminating at the top in arches.  From the center of these arches hangs a “Chandelier of Bells”, visible from all directions in contrast to the usual carillon design where the bells are hidden.

     Unlike chimes, carillon bells are stationary and tuned chromatically rather than diatonically.  Thus, they are capable of playing half-tones and are not confined to the tonal limitations of chimes, which usually play only eight notes to a scale.  There must be at least twenty-five tones in order to have two complete octaves.

     The thirty-two bells in Deeds Carillon, some of which are “silent” or memorial bells, range down in diameter from six feet to twenty inches.  All were cast by the Meneely Bell Company,  of Troy, N. Y.; the largest weights 7,000 pounds, and the smallest 150 pounds.  They are played from a manual console in the base of the monument, by means of magnets electrically operated.  The console itself is a fine example of cabinet  work, with touches of stainless steel for embellishment.

     Although carillon playing was developed in Belgium, where the only school of instruction is located and where the bell towers of Bruges, Mechlin, Antwerp, and Ghent have been famous for years, carillons also exist in Holland, England, France, and Canada as well as the United States.

     Canada’s best-known carillon is that of fifty-three bells, built in the Parliament Building at Ottawa as a war memorial.  Among the five older carillons in the United States, two of the better-known are the Bok Tower in Florida and the carillon in New York’s Riverside Church, which is said to contain the largest tuned bell in existence.  None, however, are more imaginative in design, or more timely in the giving, than the new Deeds Carillon.