Out of Bounds: The History of the Victory Bell

Last week, former ASU professor Carlos Balsas was arrested and charged with making a fake bomb threat against the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia. Thankfully the ASU Victory Bell does not include any bomb threats in its history. However, as one of ASU’s most time honored traditions, it does include dinner, a U.S. senator, and possible thievery.

ASU quarterback Taylor Kelly rings the Victory Bell to signify the Territorial Cup win over U of A. Photo by Nick Krueger ASU quarterback Taylor Kelly rings the Victory Bell to signify the Territorial Cup win over U of A. Photo by Nick Krueger

For the sake of clarity, two different Victory Bells exist. The yellow bell that sits outside the southeast entrance to Sun Devil Stadium is a gift from Judge Ross F. Jones in the late 1960s. It came from Michigan on the Santa Fe railway around 1879 and weighs around 2,000 pounds. The Victory Bell that has a more interesting history dates back to the 1930s.

The original bell hung in the dining hall at the ASU Teacher’s College and rang in order to give notice that dinner was ready. Somehow the bell began to ring whenever a team won a game and therefore became the “Victory Bell.”

In 1956, in honor of the opening of the Memorial Union, U.S. Senator Carl Hayden gave a piece of sandstone from the original White House to ASU. The bell was mounted on the sandstone and placed in front of the MU.

Here is where the story gets weird. The MU was remodeled in the 1970s and the Victory Bell was removed as not to damage it, and in hopes of possibly relocating it. Then, the bell disappeared. My question is, how does one lose such a large, treasured piece of ASU history? A large bell does not seem like it would be an easy thing to lose, much less a large piece of the White House. How was it not given more care? I could continue to speculate, but bottom line is that the bell was lost (but that is certainly an investigative story for another time).

For a number of years, the only bell that existed was the aforementioned bell outside of Sun Devil Stadium. A new bell was purchased by the ASU student government last year.  The new bell is mobile and sits on a maroon and gold wagon. It seems that ASU has also learned their lesson when it comes to misplacing things too. The bell is constantly under surveillance by ROTC students while it is in public.

ASU has always had its fair share of traditions. Lantern walk began in 1917. The Friday before the homecoming game, students, faculty, and alumni alike carry lanterns up “A” mountain for a night of fun and fireworks. Every fall since the 1930s, students hike up “A” mountain to give it a new coat of paint and symbolize a new year at ASU. The pitchfork symbol with your hands, Sparky pushups at football games are just a few other traditions of note. None of these traditions quite compare to that of the Victory Bell.

Check back on Monday when I recount the most storied rivalry in all of college sports: the Territorial Cup.


If you have any suggestions as to what you would like to see me write about or cover this semester, have a comment about a recent post, or simply want to talk sports, contact me at nkruege1@asu.edu or via Twitter @npkrueger

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