An old memento, a new tradition
Any time the football team wins a
game, the players procees victoriously
through Roberts Union to the rear
balcony in order to participate in a
relatively new Colby tradition: the
ringing of the bell. The practice originated
with Tom Austin, who, upon
being hired as the new football coach
in 1985, instituted the tradition in
order to help promote team unity.
Unbeknownst to many, however,
is the fact that the bell connects the
College to a pivotal figure in
American history--Paul Revere.
Though best known for his folkloric midnight ride, Revere was also the proprietor of Revere & Sons, a prosperous Boston foundry which cast over 400 bells during its existence. Fourty-Eight of these bells were actually forged during Revere's lifetime. Colby's, however, was not cast until 1824, some six years after Revere's death. The price of each bell varied: an 1802 bell found in Bath, Maine cost $491, whereas another in Woodstock fetched a $351 price tag.Colby's Revere Bell was first installed on the downtown campus in the belfry of South College hall.
From its perch, its tolling marked the 6 a.m. wake-up call for then-mandatory chapel services, as well as the beginning and end of each class.
Due to its role as campus timekeeper, the bell fell victim to a number of student organized pranks, including common removals of the bell's clapper--which was reported to have then been buried in the foundation of a building under renovation, and then later in a mound of gravel alongside the river.
Two particular episodes, however, stand out in the bell's history. At one point, ambitious students went so far as to transport the bell to Brunswick in a sleigh, where they swapped the bell for Bowdoin's college bell and then replaced each bell in the other's place. Later, in 1880, students shipped the bell to the sophomore class at Harvard University, who then forwarded it to the University of Virginia. Distraught, the College hired private investigators to look into the matter. After some time, the bell was finally located, neatly packaged up on the deck of an outgoing sailing vessel in New York. The cargo of the ship was bound for London. More specifically, the package containing Colby's bell was addressed "To Her Gracious Majesty, Victoria, Queen, Defender, etc., Windsor Castle, England, C.O.D."
Once the College abandoned its downtown campus, the location of the bell on Mayflower Hill was put up for debate. For a while, it looked as if the bell would reside in Miller Library's tower, but it was finally decided that the bell would take up residence on the balcony behind Roberts Union, where it remains to this day.