Bell Trading Post was founded in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1932 by Jack Michelson and his wife Mildred. They sold southwest style jewelry at various tourist locations in the United States.
Bell Trading Post got its name from Jack’s wife, whose maiden name was Bell.
To see a selection of Bell Trading Post jewelry, visit our Copper Shop. Here are some examples:
Their main competitor was The Maisel Company until Maisel’s closed in 1968.
In 1969, Sunbell Corporation was formed and included these merchandise lines: Bell Jewelry (which now carried the Sunbell hallmark), Gregorian Copper Ware, and Oglala Lakota moccasins from Pine Ridge South Dakota. Sunbell also purchased Maisel’s inventory.
Sunbell Corporation catalog
Gregorian Copper Ware catalog
catalog page showing the Pine Ridge moccasins
Sunbell continued to offer jewelry items, now with the Sunbell hallmark, as well as giftware and moccasins until the late 1980s.
Over the years numerous hallmarks were used on items sold by Bell Trading Post and Sunbell. The hallmarks typically included the image of a bell or that of an arrow sign post with a bell sign hanging from it. Shown here are just a few of Bell Trading Post’s hallmarks.
According to a reader who researched the trademark records, the mark “Bell Jewelry” was first used in 1935.
The “Arrow post hanging bell sign” was first used in 1961.
When the name changed to Sunbell, this is the hallmark often used.
I originally wrote this article in 2011 but just updated it after receiving a note from Jacquelyn Michelson: “As the Daughter of Jack and Mildred Michelson you are incorrect in your facts about the Bell Trading Post. It was never called Bell Trading Company and Bell never merged with The Maisel Company in 1935. They remained fierce competitors until the 70’s when Sunbell Corporation bought the Maisel Company. Please correct your facts. Thank you”.
So I thanked Jacquelyn for taking the time to write and I have corrected the errors in my article and added more information and photos courtesy of Jacquelyn. I’m so glad she wrote, how else would I have known !!
I now want to share with you some references that I had used originally and that I dug out again today as I rewrote this article. I am including them all so you can review the information and draw your own conclusions. As is often the case, things aren’t always black and white.
An article online entitled Bell Trading Post, Albuquerque, NM (1932 -1969)
Although that article seems to provide some good information, Jacquelyn Michelson did point out there are a few errors, in particular this sentence:
“Then in 1957 Jack Michelson pasted away4 leaving the company to his two sons, Jack and Douglas.”
Well not only should that have said passed away, not pasted away, it should have said:
Then in 1957 Jack Michelson passed, leaving the company to his two sons, Jack and Douglas and his daughter Jacquelyn who was a proud and active part of the business. It was Jacquelyn who came up with the name Sunbell and the logo when Sunbell became a corporation.
An excellent book Reassessing Hallmarks of Native Southwest Jewelry by Pat and Kim Messier. I’m showing one excerpt here but there are other discussions on this topic and much more !
In the book Fred Harvey Jewelry, there is a timeline that states Maisel’s and Bell merged in 1935 which Jacquelyn Michelson says did not happen.
The author of the above book referenced the following book as the source for the merger information. Here is the book cover and the page referenced.
Finally, this is another reference with much about Bell Trading Post, Maisel’s and more.