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The Royal Holland Bell Ringers Collection and Archive

The Royal Holland Bell Ringers Act

Highlights of the Collection...

Twenty of the musical instruments once played by the Royal Holland Bell Ringers on the Chautauqua circuit early in the twentieth century are included in this collection which also preserves numerous press clippings, photographs, and costumes.  Among the instruments are a slide saxophone by Reiffel & Husted, Chicago, ca. 1922 (catalog NMM 5385); a glassophone invented by Peter H. Brouwer, ca. 1915 (catalog NMM 5389); a Deagan aluminum harp (friction chimes), ca. 1920 (catalog NMM 5386); a Swiss hand bell set made before 1914 (catalog NMM 5390); and several other partial sets of bells.

The collection was donated to the Museum by Theodore Brower, Boynton Beach, Florida, in 1992.

About the Royal Holland Bell Ringers...

Organized by "Professor" P. H. Brouwer, as he was called in the hundreds of press clippings that survive, the Royal Holland Bell Ringers was a family ensemble.  Brouwer (later shortened to Brower) was a newspaper correspondent in the Holland, Michigan, area, when the group first began to concertize.  In 1915, the family returned to Holland, where they played for troops in the early days of World War I.

An appearance before Queen Wilhelmina and her daughter, Juliana, led to the title, the Royal Holland Bell Ringers.

Returning to the States at the end of the year, the Bell Ringers toured extensively.  Mrs. Brouwer would preface the performances with remarks about the War.  In later years, she would talk about life in Holland.  The family wore picturesque Dutch costumes during their 1920s tour of the United States and Canada.

The ever-expanding list of instruments used by the group--in addition to three sets of Swiss hand bells--came to include such novelties as a slide saxophone, a glassophone, and a set of friction chimes, played with gloves covered with rosin.

Excerpted from André P. Larson, "Royal Bell Ringers Collection Donated," The Shrine to Music Museum Newsletter 20, No. 4 (August 1993), p. 3.

The Royal Holland Bell Ringers Collection and Archive is available for examination by appointment (see access guidelines) in the Museum's study-storage areas.

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