For 100 years, students making their way across the Oval have been serenaded by the Orton Hall Chimes – 12 bells that have become an integral part of the OSU experience for many in the University community. They were delivered to OSU on Feb. 11, 1915, after the classes of 1906, ’07, ’08, ’09, ’10, ’11, ’13, and ’14 banded together to purchase the bells for roughly $8,000. (The class of 1912, apparently a group of nonconformists, decided to donate a mantel piece to the Main Library).
The dozen bells, together weighing roughly 7 ½ tons and all tuned in D flat, were installed over the following weeks. According to a “Contract for Chimes” signed by the Board of Trustees with the manufacturer, the McShane Co., the bells were to be made out of Lake Superior copper (about three-quarters) and imported East India block tin, and they were guaranteed not to crack. At Commencement that year, the Chimes were officially dedicated, and also that year, a new organization called “The Chimes Club” formed to take charge of playing melodies at 11:50 a.m. and 4:50 p.m. daily. Chemistry Professor W.L. Evans noted at the time that it was “expected that the advent of the chimes will create a new interest in college music at OSU.”
A few years later, the classes of 1919 and 1920 purchased an automatic striker for the bells to mark the time of day, and by 1949, the bells were renovated and an electric clock device was installed so the Chimes would ring on the quarter hour and the full Westminster Quarters melody would play at the full hour.
Meanwhile, the twice-daily serenades were still done by hand. Four faculty members – including Evans – traded the duty of climbing the 80-some steps twice a day to play the serenades in the Chimes’ early history. Later, an engineering drawing professor, Allen McManigal, took charge of the Chimes, playing them himself or supervising music students to do so. His direction continued for more than 25 years until his death in 1950; later, Music Professor Wilbur Held, an organ music specialist, supervised students. In the 1960s, these students, called Chimes Masters, were paid $25 a week for the responsibility of making it to the top of the tower in time to play such songs as “June is Busting Out All Over” on especially dreary or snowy days. In addition, “Carmen Ohio” was played during the football season, as well as carols during the holidays.
After roughly 60 years of ringing, the chimes needed a little tune-up, so the Class of 1978, in conjunction with OSU, made a $28,000 repair to the bells in 1985. A year later, a more modern electrical system was installed to automate the serenades as well, although an electric keyboard also was installed, making it much easier and less laborious to play by hand.
By 2003, two new bells were installed, this time chiming at G sharp and A sharp. This $12,000 addition enabled the Chimes Masters to have much more a variety in songs to play, which was often a complaint made by students over the years. These new notes could now play songs like “America the Beautiful” and “The Buckeye Battle Cry.”
On Wednesday, Feb. 11, 2015, the Ohio Staters, Inc., will host a 100th-anniversary celebration event at Orton Hall from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. The event will feature remarks by President Drake, refreshments, a display of related artifacts and tours of the tower. For more information go to the Staters’ Facebook page.