Fenton’s first bell was made as a special order for the BPOE (Benevolent Protective Order of Elks). It featured an elk on it and was embossed with Atlantic City. The bell was made as souvenir item for their 1911 convention. For the Parkersburg convention in 1914 another bell was made. Later, another bell was made for the Portland, Oregon convention in 1917. These three bells were all made in blue carnival glass. While all of these rare bells are highly sought after by carnival collectors, it is the Portland bell that is hardest to find and of course commands the most money.
The 1914 Fenton catalog offered a cut design of a Daisy. This bell remained in the line until sometime in the 1930s. A special order for the Bell Telephone Company was offered in the 1920s. The design on it was a telephone shape in 3D which made it very unique looking.
The bell disappeared from Fenton’s production until the mid1960s. In 1962 the Colonial colors of Amber, Blue and Pink were introduced. Green was added the following year. Hobnail was first offered in these colors in 1964. The #3667 bell, as part of the Hobnail assortment, came along in 1967. Milk Glass was offered in 1967 and Ruby was added in 1977.
This was start of the explosion of bells that Fenton began to offer in the proceeding decade. The Daisy and Button bell #1966 came out in 1970 and was in the Olde Virginia line before being put in Fenton’s regular line in 1971. Next up in 1973 was the #3567 Spanish Lace bell in Silver Crest. For the Bicentennial assortment, there was a #8467 bell first offered in Independence Blue in 1974. The bell was also offered later in Patriot Red and Chocolate. The Madonna bell #9467 and Medallion bell #8267 were both offered in 1975. The Threaded Diamond Optic #8465 bell and Faberge #8466 were introduced in the line for 1977.
The Fenton decorating department was re- set up in 1968 with the arrival of Louise Piper from Jeannette Shade and Novelty Company. She not only had to paint and design decorations, she also was required to train the decorators. At first they worked in a cramped area in the basement before a larger space was developed. Before long there were over 50 decorators trained to handle a multitude of decorations. With many different types of glass being offered, the addition of a decoration only proliferated the amount of bells being offered in the Fenton catalog.
During one of our many conversations with Frank in his office when we were beginning work on our Burmese book, he had commented on the popularity of the bell. He said “he was amazed that once it was introduced, the bell sold very well. The more different ways it was offered, the bell continued to sell. This only encouraged us (Fenton) to make more.
The large #7362 and #7466 bells have plenty of plain surface to apply detailed decorations. With the addition of Crystal Velvet in 1977, there were three new bells offered. The #9660 Craftsman, #9168 Bride and Groom along with #9465 Strawberry all were unique with their special detailed pattern on them.
The 1980s decade brought more bells. A set of Collecti-bells in 1980 were made from water goblet moulds that were owned by the Redcliff Company. The five were: #9061 Knobby Bullseye; #9062 Grape; #9063 Sydenham; # 9064 Whitton; #9065 Sable Arche. The #8265 Lily of the Valley bell featured heavy embossed flowers of the same name. The 1980 Christmas supplement saw the entrance of the #9463 Nativity and #8461 Currier and Ives bells. To celebrate their 75th anniversary, the Velva Rose color from the 1920s was revived in 1980. This was a soft pink stretch color. Included in the assortment was a new bell, #7562 which had a star crimp.
In 1990, there were two heart bells- a petite # 9763 and a large #9764. The handle was an open heart and the base had embossed rays. These both first appeared in the Pearly Sentiments collection and then later in a color collection. Another bell #7630 Aurora had alternating thin and wide panels on it. The #7662 petite bell was plain which made it ideal for being decorated. To celebrate the 500th anniversary of Columbus discovering America, a new bell #6571 was made. There were three different panels to honor Columbus. One featured a bust of Columbus. Another was his sailing ship. The third featured Discovery of America 1492 to 1992. In 1993 there was the #2746 Paisley bell which had alternating swirled panels of being plain and embossed flowers. For the first time in 1994, was a plain blown Cranberry bell, #6590. Also that same year, was the #8369 Barred Oval bell that was made from the water goblet. The Kristen’s Floral collection included a new petite bell, #9266. The bell was plain except for embossed drapery pattern along the bottom. Two new bells were offered in Dusty Rose. The #9265 butterfly bell had a 3D butterfly at the top of the handle and the bottom featured heavy embossed drapes. The #9262 Rose bell had embossed rose buds all over it. During this entire decade, bells proved to be the most popular item in the Fenton line.
The new century brought forth more bells. Old shapes were made in new colors, treatments and decorations. In 2002 there was a 12 piece miniature bell collection offered for QVC. All of these were offered in different colors and hand painted decorations. Around 1995, a collection of designer bells began to be offered. Fenton’s leading decorators would design and hand paint a bell high lighting and utilizing their own specialized techniques. Every holiday and special occasion now featured some type of bells. The Birds of Winter was one of the favorite assortments. Another was the ones with Christmas themes to them. We even had a special order of a Chessie bell made to coordinate with our special Chessie boxes.
Having a collection of bells is really fun. They blend easily with most people’s homes since they are small and don’t occupy a lot of room. Bells can easily be displayed in any holiday theme. So ring in the New Year and celebrate Fenton’s long history of bringing us pleasure in having our special glass collections and by meeting so many terrific people along the way.