At the centennial of the rate of chief petty officer in 1993, a special bell was cast to mark this milestone anniversary. On display in the Naval Heritage Center, the privilege of ringing this bell belongs to all chief petty officers, past and present.
Inscribed on the bell are these words:
The Chiefs' Bell
Presented to the United States Navy Memorial
By the Chief Petty Officers of the United States Navy
1 April 1993
Presented by the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy
ETCM(SW) John Hagan, USN
The text of the bronze plaque that accompanies the bell reads:
CHIEF PETTY OFFICERS
1893 - CENTENNIAL - 1993
UNITED STATES NAVY
100 YEARS OF
NAVY PRIDE AND NAVY LEADERSHIP
The first Constitutional Navy of the United States was formally created on March 27, 1794. When President George Washington signed a bill into law to provide a naval armament of six ships.
This legislation also allotted numbers and ranks of the crews. At that time, the enlisted ranks were composed of ordinary seamen, seamen, petty officers, and warrants. Ninety one years later, United States Navy Regulations Circular No. 41 of January 8, 1888 established the petty officer ranks of first, second, and third class, recognizing their seniority from other enlisted ranks.
On March 13, 1893 United States Navy Regulations Circular No. 1 authorized the rank of CHIEF PETTY OFFICER to take effect on or after April 1, 1893. The word "chief" means "taking first place" and denotes its senior position among enlisted ranks.
The 1914 Bluejackets Manual, a handbook written by and for sailors for over a hundred years, spoke to the petty officers about their new position when they have been promoted to Chief Petty Officer:
The position of Chief Petty Officer is one of special honor. It shows not only that you have served successfully, but that your service has met with the commendation of your seniors, that you are proficient, trustworthy, and reliable...
The tone of the ship, the tone of the service itself must come directly from the Chief Petty Officers more than from any other group in the Navy. You have the standard; live up to it... and you will find that those under you will be more inclined to do likewise.
We, the Chief Petty Officers, serving the second 100 years of duty to our country and to our Navy, dedicate the sounding of this bell as a symbol of our continued dedication to "Setting the Tone" as our comrades-in-arms have done so bravely before us.
This ships bell, known hereafter as The Chiefs' Bell, is presented to the U.S. Navy Memorial by the Chief Petty Officers now serving in the United States Navy.