belltower

With the backdrop of a stunning Whitman fall, this panoramic shot of the historic bell in the Memorial Building clock tower is made possible through modern photo technology — four photos “stitched” together. (Click to enlarge.)

Although the bell is nearly a century old, it is actually Whitman’s second. The first was installed in 1883 — before Memorial Building was built — in the tower of College Hall. Whitman’s founder, the Rev. Cushing Eells, marked the occasion of Whitman becoming a degree-granting college by donating the 1,000-pound bell. The Meneely Bell Company in New York, famous for its reproduction of the original Liberty Bell that hangs today in Independence Hall, crafted Whitman’s first bell, which had to be shipped around the horn of South America to reach the West Coast.

That first bell rang for 31 years, functioning not only to mark the hour but also to call students to chapel and to celebrate athletic victories. In fact, it was a particularly “vigorous ringing” after a football game that, according to a February 1915 Pioneer student newspaper, led to the bell’s demise. The original bell is on display in Penrose Library.

Mary Penrose, mother of the college’s third and longest-serving president, Stephen B.L. Penrose, donated the current bell, which was installed in Memorial Building on Feb. 25, 1915. The bell was cast in 1890 by the McShane Bell Foundry near Baltimore. Now nearing a century of service, it continues to mark campus time, reliably ringing every half-hour.

Photo by Greg Lehman