The Verdin Company is taking its mobile bell foundry back in time this weekend. The Cincinnati company known for its bells and clocks is casting a bell at Plimoth Plantation in Massachusetts to crown the Mayflower II.
The living museum in Plymouth, Mass., recreates the Pilgrim's colony. Workers have spent the last three years restoring a replica of the Mayflower to celebrate the 400th anniversary in 2020 of the original ship's landing. The full-scale reproduction Mayflower was built between 1955 and 1957 in Brixham, England, and was a gift from the people of England honoring the alliance forged during World War II.
President Tim Verdin says it will take two days to mold, cool, clean and polish.
"This particular bell is going to be about 19 inches in diameter. It's going to weigh somewhere in the neighborhood of 150 to 160 pounds," Verdin says. "We've specially designed the bell to look period correct."
The "Let History Ring" festival begins Saturday afternoon with the "ingot brigade," where bronze ingots made of 80% copper and 20% tin will be passed hand to hand and placed for melting in the 2,200-degree furnace. The Verdin team will pour the mold several hours later.
"We are honored that veterans who served in America's military will be contributing some of their medals to be melted into the bronze for the bell," adds Kate Sheehan, Plimoth Plantation spokeswoman. "This gesture is deeply meaningful and a special reflection of Mayflower II's history as a World War II memorial in honor of the UK-USA alliance."
On Sunday, visitors can watch as the Verdin team breaks the bell mold and finishes the bell. It will then be inscribed and a patina will be applied. After the dedication ceremony, the bell will be transported to Mystic, Conn., to be installed on the Mayflower II.
The inscription, chosen by project donors, will read, "First rung in free land. September 1, 2019."
"For us to be asked to do something that's historically significant like this," Verdin says, "... it's pretty cool."
For its part, Plimouth Plantation (the museum uses the historic spelling of "Plymouth") says it chose Verdin because it wanted a highly skilled company with a proven record.
"Millions of people visiting the ship in the years to come will see and hear the bell, and learn about its importance to sailors in the 17th century and today, so it is important that it can stand the test of time, weather and use," says Sheehan in a statement to WVXU. "We trust Verdin to create a high-quality bell, and we appreciate their enthusiasm for Mayflower II's restoration."
Verdin's "Bell Foundry on Wheels" was created in 2001 and is the only one of its kind. Verdin says it allows the company to make onsite in two days what would typically take several months. The idea came about as Ohio was preparing to celebrate its bicentennial. Verdin traveled the state in 2003 casting bicentennial bells in each of the Buckeye State's 88 counties.
Here's a video of the Mystic Seaport Museum and Plimoth Plantation restoration crews on Aug. 21, 2019 preparing Mayflower II for launch on Sept. 7, 2019.