June 20, 2012
One of the most recognizable symbols of Brigham Young University is the Y Bell. The bell can be heard ringing after each home basketball victory. Tradition has it that the first bell associated with the university came to Utah with the pioneers. It was donated to Brigham Young Academy shortly after they began classes in the Lewis Building in downtown Provo. The bell was used to begin and dismiss classes. The fire that destroyed the Lewis Building in 1884 destroyed that bell. A steel triangle bell was used while classes were held in the ZCMI warehouse until it was replaced by a student purchased bell. This bell was used from 1912 until 1919 when the current Y bell was obtained.
The current Y bell has a colorful history. Originally purchased for the Old Provo Tabernacle, the bell was given to BYU in 1919 when the Old Provo Tabernacle was razed. Cast in 1887 by the McShane Bell Foundry of Baltimore, this bell was installed in the Education Building. The bell was used to signal class changes and to celebrate athletic victories. In 1949 the bell was cracked during celebration of a victory over the University of Utah. The bell was recast with funds raised by the student body and placed on a trolley so that it could be taken to athletic events. Unfortunately, the bell was stolen and feared lost until discovered in a swamp near Springville. It was then placed on a permanent bell tower on upper campus. The bell was eventually moved to its current location in front of the Marriott Center.
The University Archives has one collection that documents the history of the Y Bell. This collection is UA 123 Collected history of the Old Y Bell, 1884-1968. This collection includes documented histories, poems and articles (photocopies) concerning the “Y” Bell and other bells at Brigham Young University.
If you would like to know more about the sources for learning about the Y bell, please contact the University Archivist at (801) 422-5821 or firstname.lastname@example.org.