The Boston Manufacturing Company Bell
This was the second and last known bell in the cupola of the Boston Manufacturing Company's original building
In 1814, the Boston Manufacturing Company acquired a bell from from Paul Revere’s North End iron foundry.
Placed in the belfry of New England’s first fully-integrated textile factory, this bell routinized nearly every hour of the mill girl’s day, from getting up at 4:30, to the commencement of work at 5:00, and on. Switching from sun time and its more informal ordering of daily work and leisure on the farm to clock time posed a real challenge for these once-Yankee farm girls. If a mill girl arrived at the factory just a minute late, she was sent home and lost her wages for the day, or was fired.
So, while the bell symbolized the birth of industry and the rise of efficiency in the workplace, it also represented the decline of nature, the sun and the seasons, as ordering the everyday rhythms of life. Women were vocal about what they viewed as the tyranny of the bell.
‘The factory bell begins to ring,
And we must all obey,
And to our old employment go,
Or else be turned away’
That early Paul Revere Bell cracked in the 1850s and was replaced by the bell, pictured here, made by Henry Hooper, once an apprentice to Revere in his foundry. In fact, Hooper bought Revere's foundry producing bells, lighting fixtures, and artillery for the Union army in 1862. Especially well known for his decorative lighting he was commissioned by the government to build a chandelier for the House of Representatives.
The Hooper Bell commissioned for the factory was eventually removed and used as a church bell in Nova Scotia. Once this museum was readying opening in 1987, a request for the return of the bell was made, and honored. It is now housed again here in Waltham at the Charles River Museum.