In 1915, a phone in San Francisco rang carrying a call from the other side of the country for the first time. It was also the first time the bells rang on Ohio State’s campus.
Now, when almost everyone carries a cellphone, the bells are sounding for the 100th year.
Page two of The Lantern on Friday, Feb. 12, 1915, featured an article that read, “The chimes! the chimes! Those long-coming chimes! They’re here,— really and truly here! … We saw ‘em, and seeing is believing. At six minutes of four yesterday afternoon there were 12 different bells back of Orton Hall … Who said dreams never do come true?”
It’s been a century, and the dream-come-true is celebrating with a Wednesday event hosted by university archivists and the student organization Ohio Staters Inc.
“Our student population has been really quite instrumental in bringing the bells to campus and keeping them alive,” said Catherine Montalto, a faculty adviser for Ohio Staters Inc.
The event starts on Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. at Orton Hall with an open house with food, informational displays and giveaways, Montalto said.
At 5:45 p.m., there will be a ceremony with President Michael Drake and people who used to hand-ring the chimes.
The graduating class of 1906 was the first to fund bells for the tower. Every year from 1906 to 1914, except 1912, put its class gift toward the bells. The bells’ total price came to $8,000, said university archivist Tamar Chute.
With inflation, today, the bells would cost about $187,500.
OSU contracted with a foundry in Baltimore, Md., to make the bells, Chute said. The bells were brought onto campus on Feb. 11, 1915 and officially unveiled on Feb. 22.
The classes of 1919 and 1920 put their class gifts toward electric strikers that mark the hours and quarter-hours, Montalto said.
The bells, which were originally hand-operated by a lever system that had cables going up two floors of the Orton tower, are now operated by a keyboard, Chute added.
At the event, Ohio Staters Inc. will also be offering tours of the tower to where the keyboard and old levers are kept. Tours go from 6 to 7:55 p.m.
The only way to get to where the actual bells are kept is to climb two wooden ladders. At the top of the tower, the bells dominate the space with little room to walk around.
“When you go up there, it’s like a right of passage,” said Nicole Parke, Ohio Staters Inc. member and project co-chair.
Guests at the event will have a chance to test their musical skills, Parke, a third-year in economics, added.
“People will be able to play the keyboard that plays the bells,” she said. “If they know other songs, they can play those, but we have the sheet music for ‘Carmen Ohio.’”
Throughout the year, people can go onto the Ohio Staters Inc. website to request songs to be played on the bells, Montalto said.
“There are some student organizations on campus that for their orientation or initiation want specific songs to play,” she said. “There are special occasions like if someone wants to propose on campus and wants the bells played.”
Ohio Staters Inc. also offers Orton bell tower tours for groups of five or more people, which can be scheduled through a form on its website.