Unique Reference Questions at the Lynnfield Public Library
by Patricia Kelly, Head of Reference
*This article was originally published in the Lynnfield Villager on February 24, 2021
The Lynnfield Public Library reference department handles a variety of questions throughout the course of the day: some quite routine – “can I request the latest James Patterson?”; others a little more unusual that might even require a field trip to the Lynnfield Common! In October 2021 a bell enthusiast had driven by the Lynnfield Common, noticed the large bell displayed on the cement pad, but couldn’t get to it due to work being done on the walkways and lawn. The patron called the library requesting information on where the bell had originally been located, what happened to the building that housed it, and what company cast the bell. I used a variety of library resources and on-line sources – including the two volume History of Lynnfield (Wellman and Wiswall), Lynnfield: A Brief History (Lynnfield Historical Commission), Images of America: Lynnfield (Falls), 1917 & 1918 Lynnfield Annual Reports (available in hard copy and on-line) – to research the question. I was able to verify that the bell was purchased by the Town of Lynnfield for $100 from a (salvage?) company in Boston in 1918, and hauled to Lynnfield for $10 by the E F Gerry Company. The bell was installed in a tower in the Meeting House in 1918 for the use of (fire) Chemical Company No. 1 (the Meeting House was used as a fire station from approximately 1902 until 1960). When the fire department relocated to the new police-fire complex in 1960, the belfry in the Meeting House was demolished, and the bell installed on the Common. I located a spreadsheet on-line (located in “An Index of known Naylor Vickers bells”) that indicated that the bell was cast by the Naylor Vickers bell company of Sheffield, England. This information had been compiled by a bell aficionado named George Dawson, but some of the information appeared contradictory, so I was cautious about taking it at face value. I was not able to take a ‘field trip’ to the Common to inspect the bell until early December – after the newly sodded green was safe to walk on. The inscriptions on the bell indicated that it was indeed cast by Naylor Vickers & Co., Sheffield, England in 1859 using E. Riepe’s patent for cast steel, and also indicated the bell was “no (number) 1060.” I was not able to uncover the history of the bell between 1859 – when cast – and 1918 – when purchased second-hand in Boston. Due to weather and the Common project, it took a little longer than usual to resolve this reference question, but our patron was quite happy with what we could dig up on the history of Lynnfield’s ‘Bell on the Common.’ And if anyone has more information on the bell’s ‘missing years,’ please don’t hesitate to contact me at 781-334-5411 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Stay tuned for the next episode of “Unusual Reference!” It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s Superman in Lynnfield!!