Calling all servants…




If you’ve visited the Campbell House before, or have watched any of Downton Abbey, you know that one of the most important features of a large house with servants are the call bells.

At Campbell House, the original bells still line the top of the kitchen wall, waiting to ring. Eleven of the house’s rooms had a pull on the wall, and each bell made a different noise, allowing servants to go directly to the room required. If you’ve taken a tour, you know all of this. But what you don’t know is what is in the basement.

For the Campbell bell system to work, it needed a long series of cords and pulleys. For instance, a bell pull in parlor would require around 80 to 90 feet of cord to reach the kitchen! And this cord would have to be protected in some way to prevent it from snagging on loose nails or becoming tangled with other cords and wires.

The covered passage on the basement ceiling

The covered box on the basement ceiling, showing part of the cover cut away.

At the Campbell House, the cords were installed on the ceiling of the basement inside a covered box. This covered box still sits on the ceiling of the basement.

Using the covered box created a problem, however. To travel from the wall to the box cords now had to pivot 90 degrees three times: from the parlor wall to the basement ceiling, from that spot to the covered box, and from the covered box up to kitchen wall. To facilitate this process, the workmen installed metal pivots. Two of these pivots are still nailed to the basement ceiling near the front of the house. One of them has two separate pivots, perhaps with one for the front door and the other for the front of the parlor. The Campbells undoubtedly made use of several more of these pivots.

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This system was probably used thousands of times, whether to call for tea in the parlor, to give instructions for dinner, or to inform of the arrival of a guest. Although the cords themselves are long since gone, the remnants of the system are still there, waiting to call the servants into action once more.

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New Campbell Booklet Available!

Campbell FamilyFINAL REVISED-1A new booklet about the Campbell family is now available in the Campbell House gift shop on in our online shop! Written by Maureen O’Conner Kavanaugh, The Campbell Family of St. Louis: Their Public Triumphs and Personal Tragedies tells the story of the Campbell family in a visually exciting way.

The booklet is organized topically, detailing Robert’s rise to prominence, Virginia and Robert’s courtship (see below) and the growth of their family, and the family’s trip to Europe. Also included is a list of the family’s famous friends and guests, a discussion of the servants (both free and enslaved) who were integral to maintaining the Campbell’s lavish lifestyle, and a timeline of the house and family. Every page is lavishly illustrated by photographs and contemporary imagery.

The new booklet is the perfect counterpart to our previously published The Campbell House Museum: A Pictorial Souvenir, which tells the story of the house itself. Be sure to get your copy of The Campbell Family of St. Louis, either in our online store or in person at our gift shop, which is now stocked with new items for the new year!


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Click on Alex's picture to learn more about becoming the next Campbell House intern!

Click on Alex’s picture to learn more about becoming the next Campbell House intern!

Not all the work to be done by our volunteers and interns happens here at the Campbell House. Our next intern introduction, Alex, is hard at work parsing through archives as part of our ongoing search for Campbell-related legal documents. Here is Alex…

What are you studying and where? A BA in History at UMSL.

Why Campbell House? Because it is where I was assigned [Ed. note: Well, yes, we do like to keep on UMSL’s radar, so they’ll direct interns in our direction who have never heard or thought about us before. You don’t have to know anything about Campbell House to do valuable work here!].

What are you working on at CHM? I am working on the Campbell Family Legal Legacy Project [Ed. note: We’ve noted before this involves trips to the St. Louis Circuit Court and Missouri State Archives office to dig up old files].

When you aren’t having a blast at Campbell House, what are you doing? Hanging out with friends and family. I enjoy movies, traveling, theater, and hiking!

What is your favorite thing about CHM so far? I have loved looking through all the old documents at the Missouri State archives.

iPhone or Android? Actually, I have a Windows phone [Take that, Apple and Google!].

Favorite color? Blue&Green

Favorite band/singer? Frank Turner

Andy Warhol said that everyone gets their 15 minutes of fame. What happened in your 15 minutes? I was in the newspaper as a child visiting the Magic House.

If you could be teleported anywhere in the world right now, where would you go? I would love to see Machu Pichu in Peru.

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