Oil, Meat, and Plumbing Fixtures

Armour Meats

What do the industries of oil, meatpacking, and brass fixture manufacturing all have in common? All three had American heirs that donated money to cast a carillon. Not only that, but these three resultant carillons are in Chicago.

It dawned on me this morning that the three carillons in Chicago dating from before the 1950s were all funded by very successful industrial families.

The Richard Teller Crane memorial carillon in St. Chrysostom’s Episcopal Church was given in his memory by his son, Richard Teller Crane, Jr. and installed in 1927. Crane started a brass and bell foundry in Chicago in 1855, which primarily manufactured plumbing fixtures (I haven’t found evidence yet that he actually cast any bells in this business, although he did cast bells as an apprentice in an earlier job). The business became very successful, and it’s still operating—now on a global scale—today.

Carillon number two is the Laura Spelman Rockefeller memorial carillon in the Rockefeller Chapel at The University of Chicago. This one is a doozy compared to the other two. It weighs in as the second-heaviest carillon in the world, over 100 tons of bronze! It was installed in 1932. Laura, of course, was the wife of John D. Rockefeller, the well-known oil baron. The carillon was given by her son, John D. Rockefeller, Jr.

Carillon number three is the Laurance Hearne Armour memorial carillon, previously part of the Seabury-Western Theological Seminary, but now part of Northwestern University. I don’t have as much information on this instrument, but I do know that this Armour was part of the same family that started the Armour meatpacking company in Chicago in 1867. You know, the same company that inspired Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle. This carillon was installed in 1954.

This pattern of a wealthy donor providing virtually all the funds for a carillon is common in the United States. Look up the history behind your local carillon–I bet there’s one or a few wealthy donors behind it.

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