The Class of 1892 Bells

Princeton University Carillon

In 1926, the Class of 1892 began searching for a gift to the University in honor of its 35th reunion. One class member suggested giving a carillon, like the ones he had heard in the Low Countries of Europe. The instrument, he asserted, was a fitting choice, "at once noble yet different from all other gifts."

Gillett & Johnston was selected as the foundry and a representative from the Class traveled to England to witness the casting of the bourdon. Sage Tower at Holder Hall was initially considered, but it was neither large enough nor strong enough for the 35 bells. The carillon was installed in the Graduate College's Cleveland Tower during the spring of 1927. Anton Brees, later carillonneur at the famous Bok Tower in Florida, played the dedication recital on June 17.

Over the next several decades, the carillon went from being heard daily to hardly being heard at all. An electro-pneumatic mechanism was installed and played each evening at 6:30 as graduate students filed into Procter Hall for dinner.

When Arthur Bigelow (1910-1967) came to the University in 1941 as a faculty member and University carillonneur, the carillon was barely playable. He immediately renovated the playing action, and added 14 new bells of his own design and casting. In 1966, he made plans to remove seven of the original 35 bells, as well as his 14 bells, and designed a totally re-scaled treble register of 42 bells cast by the French Foundry Paccard.

With Bigelow's death, the carillon was neglected for many years. Finally, in the summer of 1990, a committee consisting of William H. Sword '46, Charles C. Townsend, Jr. '49, Van Z. Williams, Jr. '65, Hugh de N. Wynne '39 and Robin Austin met to explore the possibility of renovating the instrument.

Meeks & Watson and The Verdin Company replaced all the clappers and headpieces, constructed a new galvanized bell frame, playing cabin, keyboard and action. In placing the carillon in concert pitch, a new Bb bass (the Ettl Bell - 7,880 pounds) was added and the smallest treble removed (now in the University Archive). Princeton's carillon boasts 67 bells, making it one of the world's largest. The bourdon which sounds G, weighs 12,880 pounds.

On June 13, 1993, Robin Austin, then newly-appointed University Carillonneur played the re-dedication recital at which Ronald Barnes' Capriccio 3 for Carillon, commissioned by the University, was premiered.

The carillon is a program of Chapel Music made possible through an endowment established by the Class of 1892. For information about opportunities to play or to learn playing the Princeton University Carillon please contact Robin Austin.

The Princeton University Carillon is played on Sundays (1:00 - 1:45 PM) and Wednesdays (6:30 - 7:00 PM) except during the Ph.D. examination periods.  For the academic calendar go to:

Home Pictures