1. Nassau Hall Bell


The historic Nassau Hall bell loudly proclaimed its campus presence for generations.  Installed in 1858 (following the original bell’s destruction in the great 1855 fire), it rang to mark the hours, signify class changes, call students to meals and chapel services, proclaim American wartime victories and celebrate Princeton athletic triumphs, for which the bell would be rung for hours on end.  According to Arthur Bigelow, who served as University Bellmaster from 1941 to 1967, this beloved campus icon was struck 35 million times in its lifetime—more than any other bell in the world.  This record will not be broken until the year 2206 by a bell founded in 1466 hanging at St. Gertrude’s Abbey in Belgium.
The bell was only silent when student pranksters stole its clapper, with the misguided hope that undergraduates would not be held responsible for missed classes that went unannounced by the customary bell peals. Despite its total failure as a means to skip class, this trick, which dates to 1864, became an annual tradition and a rite of honor for freshmen.
Frequent use caused the Nassau Hall bell to be worn as much as one-third through, until a minute crack forced its retirement and replacement in 1955.  Though now mute, its symbolism still resonates in the University community.

After traveling the world for 50 years, this authentic bell clapper returned home to Old Nassau, its original and current resting place inside this bell on the occasion of the 50th reunion of the Class of 1956.  
The bell clapper’s final journey to the Frist Campus Center was made possible by an anonymous donor from the Class of 1956.