Doorbells in 1919

graywings123October 15, 2011

I am finding lovely doorbells that are from the late 1800s - the twist turn ones. Would it be inappropriate to use one of these on the door of my house built in 1919?

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Both styles were in use at that time, especially since so many rural areas still had no electricity into the 30s. Since my front entry has the original storm, and the inner door has full plate bevelled glass, I had to mount my twist bell to the side of the entry, with a sign asking visitors to use it.

I do have an electric bell which dates to the early years of my 1908 house, but it often doesn't work, so I installed the mechanical one.

You can see the inner portion in the third picture on my house thread link.

Here is a link that might be useful: House Pics At Last

    Bookmark   October 15, 2011 at 11:35PM
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Yes, Use either. Both mechanical and electric were used in the first few decades of the 20th century. I have a neighbor who grew up in her house (shes 97) and said the mechanical bell was all her family had till the 50's.

I am working on part of my front door and building a screen door and am trying to figure out where to put my mechanical bell. Columbusguy, how did you mount yours through the wall ?? mine has a fairly short lever to go through a door. Its a pull-style, not a turn-style bell.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2011 at 10:16AM
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J I M, I had to get a new shaft for the twist part, since the old one had been cut a bit to fit my door (it was put where a deadbolt had lived). This was not an antique--it was a repro, but I picked up a genuine antique on ebay and reused the twist part of my repro on the outside since I needed a round escutcheon rather than rectangular.

My hardware store had square rod stock and gladly sold me a piece, even drilling a hole through one end for a cotter pin to attach the handle. This was mounted onto the clapboard siding to the right of the door, on top of a piece of clap which I cut to the same size as the twist part--but put on the original siding so that both together formed a vertical plane so the rod could go through the wall horizontally. I used a 1/4" drillbit about eight or so inches long to get through the wall, but stopped once the point came through the inside, then finished the hole from the interior using that small spot as the center for the drill bit...thus, no broken plaster, just a little dust.

I'll post pics later today--had to repair my sidewalk yesterday, so didn't get to it.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2011 at 5:32AM
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As promised, pics of my doorbell:

The sign is a repro of an english one I found online.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2011 at 5:45PM
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Columbus, I like how you flattened out your clapboard with the wedge of wood. I have to use that idea for my back porch/sun room, which is clapboards, where I want to attach some old plant holders.

I kind of thought out how you would mechanize your doorbell. You're lucky, It's way more straightforward than mine. Mine has a lever that is pulled once, it springs back to the original position and you pull it again to re-ring the bell. I am in the middle of building a screen door for the front of the house and MAY incorporate the bell into that. The door is already about 70 pounds and I havent added any hardware (I know it's not 100% authentic ... I wanted something "secure" so I built it 1.75 inches thick like a regular door. Since the screen will be removable, Ill be able to swap in a sheet of plexi for winter, too. It looks like it's old if you dont consider how much thicker it is. Hey, then again, the neighborhood isnt as authentic as it was 120 years ago, either.)

    Bookmark   October 18, 2011 at 12:11PM
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I've seen english bells which operate like yours does, and every one of them was supposed to mount on the wall, going through several pulleys to reach the bell mounted higher up on the interior wall...if I'm picturing yours right.

Something like this: Servants Bell

    Bookmark   October 18, 2011 at 1:39PM
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I hate stealing this thread, but ... here goes: CG, I love those bells, would love one on my back door. But mine is more like this:

Here is a link that might be useful: doorbell

    Bookmark   October 18, 2011 at 8:06PM
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Possibly you could extend the bar so it would reach through the wall? My neighbor has a pull like that on her bell--it is mounted on her door.

I thought of mounting mine on the storm/screen, but the bell portion was too wide for me to then exchange the inserts to suit the season. :) When it was mounted on the inner door, no one ever used it because they couldn't see it...hence, the wall incarnation.

    Bookmark   October 18, 2011 at 9:51PM
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They may have been servants' bells in England, but the pulley type systems were used on front doors in the US prior to the 1860's. I had remnants of one that I've reconstructed using ebay finds. Mine had/has a pull knob on the outside door trim that connects straight thru to the inside lever assembly; then a wire runs up the interior trim to a bell mounted on the top of the door lite. Originally, I think a wire also ran from the lever to a bell mounted in the room directly below as we found a small hole in the floor & pulley pieces when we removed the basement ceiling.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2011 at 9:21AM
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I'm a bit late in this game - but I wanted to reply with my thoughts. Although I don't really know much about period doorbells - I think of an old house like this... It's my logic for most everything including furniture and decoration as well.

My old house was built in 1916, a Folk Victorian... at that time, the family that built the home may have had tons of money... or not. So they could have inherited things no longer of use to other family members - doorbells, sofas, tables, etc. Plus - the home was in the same family for 95 years - so things would have been changed throughout that time.

I feel that its perfectly appropriate to use something that pre or post-dates your home, because that's what happens - we use what we have or are given or can afford until we can afford better (unless we love said item) Its how a home ages, and establishes character IMO, anyway :)

    Bookmark   November 15, 2011 at 7:40AM
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I have been searching for a similar sign for our pull lever doorbell. Most people do not realize it is a bell. Could you tell me where you found it? I am not having any luck finding one. Thanks.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2011 at 12:50AM
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Mary Lu, didn't save the link, but here it is on ebay--about $5.00...there are other styles in a search for 'door bell signs', but this is the one I used. Shipping was pretty quick too!

Door Sign

    Bookmark   November 17, 2011 at 1:38PM
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