The town of East Hampton is informally known as “Belltown, USA.” Back in the 1800s, the town was home to 30 different bell manufacturers. Among the earliest and most successful of these businesses was the Bevin Brothers Manufacturing Company. Operating on the same piece of land in East Hampton for almost 200 years, Bevin Brothers produced everything from the first bicycle bells to souvenir bells for the presidential campaigns of Calvin Coolidge and Thomas Dewey; and throughout their history, they manufactured more than one million bells for the Salvation Army.
During the early 1800s, Abner and William Bevin became indentured servants to William Barton, the first bell maker in what became the modern town of East Hampton. After finishing out their obligations to Barton, the two brothers set up small foundries in their backyards and began casting bells. They decided to go into business together in 1832. With the addition of brothers Chauncey and Philo, the Bevin Brothers Manufacturing Company truly became a family business.
Ringing in the 20th Century
The company thrived well into the 1900s by producing a wide variety of bells for shipment all over the world. Bevin Brothers made tea bells, ice cream bells, door bells, naval bells, and even replicas of the Liberty Bell. A second-generation, Chauncey Griswold Bevin, began working at the company in 1872, and he spent over 70 years helping grow the business. By the time of his death in 1948, Bevin Brothers was an industry leader.
As the 20th century progressed, the bell industry in East Hampton met the same fate as many US industries faced by the economic realities brought on by foreign competition and other factors. By the 1970s, Bevin Brothers was the only bell maker left in East Hampton.
Perhaps the company’s greatest challenge came early in the 21st century. On May 27, 2012, a lightning strike sparked a fire that destroyed the Bevin Brothers’ historic bell factory. Moving a quarter-mile away and rehiring a substantial portion of the company’s employees, the family-run concern resumed bell production in less than 6 months. Today, the company continues its operations in East Hampton, shipping out cow bells, bells for nursing homes, and thousands of bells to the Salvation Army.