For Whom the Bell Doesn't Toll

ABC News' Alice Gomstyn reports: Was it a bad omen or just a glitch? On the day that the government’s massive financial system rescue plan heads to the House, traders waiting for the New York Stock Exchange to open were greeted by silence –- the iconic opening bell failed to sound.

A spokeswoman for the NYSE said that an “isolated electrical issue” was to blame and that the day’s closing bell should operate as usual.

She said that, to her knowledge, the bell had never previously gone silent.

If she’s right, that would be a mighty long streak.

Trading bell history dates back to the 1870s, according to NYSE. At the time, a Chinese gong was used –- it was replaced with brass bells when the exchange moved to its current home in 1903.

Today, the exchange uses four bells, each 18 inches in diameter, and is also home to one spare. The backup bell was made in the 1980s and, because bells meeting NYSE specifications hadn’t been made in quite some time, the bell’s manufacturer had to bring employees out of retirement to do the job.

-- With reports from ABC News' Dan Arnall.

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