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Three bells polka

Date: 1854
Overall: 339 x 263 mm, 0.04 kg
Medium: Ink on paper
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Purchased with USA Bicentennial Gift funds
Object Name: Sheet music
Object No: 00036391
Place Manufactured:New York

User Terms

    This sheet music depicts a colour lithograph by Sarony and Co of two vessels, one with a British red ensign and the other the US flag. It was dedicated to the Captain of the THREE BELLS, Robert Creighton, and commemorated his efforts in rescuing passengers from the sinking steamship SAN FRANCICSO in December 1853. Creighton received numerous honours and eulogies, and was awarded a gold medal by the US Government.
    SignificanceThe 'Three Bells Polka' was popular in the 1850s and demonstrates the commemoration of maritime bravery on sheet music.
    HistorySheet music offers an insight into popular culture and social values at the time of their production. The widely distributed pieces were sold fairly cheaply, making them popular purchases with the general public. Music was an integral part of people's social life in the home and at public events such as balls, recitals, concerts and theatre shows.

    THREE BELLS was a British ship built in 1850 at Dumbarton for John Bell by William Denny and used for transporting merchandise and passengers. It was named after three members of the Bell family. The THREE BELLS transported immigrants to Port Adelaide, Melbourne and Newcastle from Glasgow in 1851. Three more voyages to Victoria were made in 1852, 1856 and 1857. It also delivered passengers to Dunedin, New Zealand in 1853.

    The THREE BELLS gained fame after its crew rescued passengers from the sinking steamship SAN FRANCICSO. Travelling from Glasgow, THREE BELLS arrived in New York on 13 January 1854 carrying 150 passengers it had rescued in December 1853.
    The SAN FRANCICSO as the time of the disaster was carrying some 600 passengers and crew, the majority of whom belonged to the 3rd US Artillary. The ship was on its maiden voyage bound for California via Cape Horn. On the 24th mountainous seas disabled the machinery and blew away the sails. About 175 died when a huge wave stripped everything away from the upper deck. Army and naval personnel pulled together in trying to save the ship from a leak in the hold. By the 26th, passengers were dying from exhaustion, dehydration and exposure. On the 28th the Boston bark KILBY came across the wrecked and battered ship and the following day as the weather moderated was able to rescue 108 passengers. However the bad weather returned and the SAN FRANCICSO drifted out of sight. On the 31 December the THREE BELLS stood by but bad weather prevented any action until 4 and 5 January. The THREE BELLS took survivors to New York while the Antarctic (which had joined in the rescue on 3 January) carried 42 survivors to Liverpool. The SAN FRANCICSO was never seen again- succumbing at last to the elements.

    Related People
    Lithographer: Napoleon Sarony
    Publisher: S T Gordon

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