(Photo illustration by Rhonda L. Smith, UChicago Photographic Archive, apf7-02515, UChicago Library)

Hate mail for the change ringers

In an anonymous letter from 1908, “A Man” tells us what he really thinks of the Mitchell Tower bells.

In 1908 the Alice Freeman Palmer Bells were installed in the Reynolds Club’s Mitchell Tower. University of Chicago athletic director and Yale alumnus Amos Alonzo Stagg donated some of the funds for them, in part because of his fond memories of the bells in Yale’s Battell Chapel ringing at ten o’clock each night. Stagg requested a similar “good night chime” in Hyde Park for the University’s athletes, “to speak to them of love and loyalty and sacrifice for their University, and of hope and inspiration and endeavor for the morrow.”

But the University would not be the University without dissent. The following letter, dated July 20, 1908, still remains in the bell tower. The letter writer would be glad to know that nowadays the bells do not ring at night.

The letter has been lightly edited for clarity.

University of Chicago,


It is half past nine as I write this note, just three quarters of an hour after the initiation, for the night apparently, of your hellish chimes. Some boy, I suspect, has stolen up to the bell tower and is amusing himself to his heart’s content with the diabolical device you have installed—possibly to gratify some old woman notion of sweet sentimentality. Your miserable clanging bells are a damned nuisance. Your indifferent performers are really misdemeanants and ought to be jailed for their outrageous and interminable perpetrations. Some day, if you persist in these wretched executions, there surely will be an uprising in the neighborhood and an endeavor made to have your unseemly ding-donging stopped for all time. Braying donkeys and baying curs have been suppressed ere this and it is not altogether improbable that college quidnuncs can be enjoined from committing their confounded, disconcerting, brain-harrowing, bell banging nuisances. Let them keep it up long enough and there is going to be a fitting response.

Yours contemptuously,

A Man.

P.S. Ten o’clock, after a promising ten minute respite, and the devil’s deputies are at it again.

Read about the Mitchell Tower change ringers in the Summer/19 Core.