The Butler’s Bell Box

March 6 2013, 4:42pm

Behind the splendor of the “Marble Room” here at 60 East 93rd Street  lies a small memento that brings us back to another time at the mansion a butler’s bell box outlines the names of each room of the Foy residence. After Virginia Vanderbilt died in 1935, Thelma Foy, the eldest daughter of the Chrysler family purchased the estate. Far into the 18th century, servants were summoned by hand bells, meaning they were on duty and within earshot at all times. However, in the 19th century bell-pull systems became standard in large households, which meant that servants could be called from a greater distance. As technology advanced, electrical bell boxes like ours were introduced. This one is even connected to a telephone! Old bell box at 60 East 93rd Street Not everyone was on board with this new system. An 1894 New York Times article, entitled Englishmen’s Dining Rooms, stated that “Such a convenience as a table bell is an unknown article of furnishing. Should the servant by any chance be wanted when out of the room, even at dinner, the mistress will rise from her chair and cross to the mantel, by the side of which is an electric button or bell pull communicating with the kitchen.” Our panel connected the servants hall with at least seventeen rooms, many of which were apparently managed by Mrs. Foy and her daughters. Mr. Foy communicated mainly from the Card Room.