Ringing the Bell: A Tradition with a Diverse History


Whenever we win a project at Perlo, we follow the ancient tradition of ringing a bell to celebrate. It’s an opportunity for our employees to come together to hear the story of how we achieved the work, who will be the project team, and more. Bell ringing has a long and storied history that dates back centuries. It’s a tradition that has endured through the ages and has been embraced by cultures worldwide. Bell ringing has been essential in many societies, including the ancient Greeks, English and Americans.  

Today we will explore the history behind this ancient tradition and why we use bell ringing to celebrate our wins here at Perlo Construction.  

The Origins of Bell Ringing

The origins of bell ringing are somewhat murky, with various theories and legends surrounding its inception. One popular theory is that it originated in ancient China, where large bronze bells were used for timekeeping and as a means of signaling important events. It is believed that this practice spread to other parts of Asia and eventually made its way to Europe. Bells were also used in ancient Greece and Rome to signal the start of games and other events. In addition, some cultures once believed the sound of the bell could ward off evil spirits and bring good luck.

During the Middle Ages, bell ringing took on a new significance. Bells were used to make announcements and mark significant events such as weddings and funerals. Bells were also used to signal the time of day and to warn of impending danger, such as fires and attacks by enemy forces. In older maritime days, ship bells would be struck to mark a successful passage or used to sound off as an emergency alarm.

Farmers also historically used the cowbell to help identify their pastoral animals. They were placed around the animal’s neck, and when it was time to herd them in the evenings, the sound made it easier for them to be found by their owners. 

In England, bell ringing became highly developed during the 17th and 18th centuries. Towers were built with multiple bells that could be rung in complex patterns, creating a beautiful and intricate sound. As a result, bell ringing became a popular pastime, with groups of people gathering to practice and perform together. 

Bell ringing also played a significant role in the history of the American Revolution. In 1775, Paul Revere famously rode through the streets of Boston, warning of the arrival of British troops. He used bells to signal his message, and the echoes of the bells were heard throughout the city. This event is now known as the “Midnight Ride of Paul Revere“, an important moment in American history. 

Modernized Uses of the Bell

Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, bell ringing continued to evolve and change. Different techniques were developed, and bells were used in new and innovative ways. For example, in the United States, bells were used to signal the arrival of trains and to announce the opening and closing of stock markets. Bells were also used to mark powerful events, such as the end of World War II. “For Whom the Bell Tolls” by Ernest Hemingway takes its title from a line in meditation by John Donne about the tolling of bells for the dead.

Once the cash register was invented in the late 19th century, bells became commonplace whenever a sale was made. The register drawer would pop open, and a bell would make the now iconic “cha-ching” sound, thus becoming synonymous with making a sale. As a result, the National Cash Register Company created a film campaign during the 1950’s titled The Bell Heard Round the World to promote their company across the United States.

Bell Ringing at Perlo 

Ringing a bell in celebrations and events has continued today. Each time we win a project, our VP of Preconstruction Services, Chris McLaughlin, will ring the Perlo bell to celebrate our achievements. On his desk sits a small piece of history that has been in his family for at least one hundred years. His family used this small bell on their farm, where their sheep wore it as they roamed across 2000 acres. For those not in the office during this celebration, a virtual ‘bell ringing’ email is dispersed company-wide to share project details and allow all to see what work is coming down the line.  

This celebration of winning is an important piece of our company culture. Collaborative in nature, no project is ever won by a single person. Instead, each is won based on a variety of factors and the efforts of many. In fact, it can sometimes take years for a project to progress from concept to reality. It makes sense, then, that we gather to celebrate when a project is awarded to us and ready to move forward. Each celebration is an opportunity to acknowledge the win, the participants in achieving it, and to anticipate the work ahead.  

Final Thoughts

If you’d like to be a part of our award-winning bell-ringing team, visit our careers page, or contact us with your next commercial construction project you want the winning team to build right.