The Boston Globe reports today that the bell in the Faneuil Hall cupola is working once again. This brings to mind the history of bells in Boston, particularly the Boston Anti-Bell Ringing Society, which appeared in 1839 to protest a Boston Common Council ordinance banning the ringing of dinner bells. I'll let In the Libertarian Labyrinth pick up the story:
"The earliest example of O.K. . . . is from the Boston 'Morning Post' of March 23, 1839. It appears in connection with a note by the paper's editor, Charles Gordon Greene, about a visit to New York of some members of the local Anti-Bell-Ringing Society. (The A.B.R.S., as it was usually known, was itself something of a joke, having been formed the previous year to oppose -- its name to the contrary -- an ordinance of the Boston Common Council against ringing dinner bells.) In an aside, Mr. Greene suggested that if the Bostonians were to return home via Providence, they might be greeted by one of his rivals, the editor of that city's 'Journal,' who 'would have the 'contribution box,' et ceteras, o.k. -- all correct -- and cause the corks to fly, like sparks, upward.'.Thus, it appears that O.K. was invented, possibly by Greene, as an abbreviation of the jocular 'Oll' or perhaps 'Orl korrect,' meaning "All right.' This explanation would seem farfetched, except for Read's finding that it dovetails with such coinages of the period as O.W. for 'All Right,' as though spelled 'Oll Wright' (this appeared in the Boston 'Morning Post' in 1838, the year before O.K.'s debut); K.G. for 'No Good'; and K.Y. for 'No Yuse.'."
The Boston Public Library acquired a copy of the Society's Constitution in 1899, where I presume one can read it today. It would appear that the law banning dinner bells was off the books by 1850, although the Boston statutes show regulations for bells on carriages, penalties for falsely ringing fire bells, and the tolling of bells for funerals. Boston laws also stated: "Ne person, unless duly licensed by the mayor and aldermen, shall ring, or cause to be rung, any bell, or other instrument, in any street, to give notice of the exercise of any business or calling, or for the sale of any article, under a penalty of not less than three nor more than twenty dollars for each offence." (Ordinances of the City of Boston, 1850)