Liberty Bell

The Liberty Bell, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is a bell that has served as one of the most prominent symbols of the American Revolutionary War. It is a familiar symbol of independence within the United States and has been described as an icon of liberty and justice. It did not, despite popular legend, on July 4, 1776, ring for the adoption of the Declaration of Independence.

According to tradition, its most famous ringing occurred on July 8, 1776, to summon citizens of Philadelphia for the reading of the Declaration of Independence. The bell had also been rung to announce the opening of the First Continental Congress in 1774 and after the Battle of Lexington and Concord in 1775. Historians today consider this highly doubtful, as the steeple in which the bell was hung had deteriorated significantly by that time.

The Liberty Bell was known as the "Independence Bell" or the "Old Yankee's Bell" until 1837, when it was adopted by the American Anti-Slavery Society as a symbol of the abolitionist movement.


The inscription on the Liberty Bell reads as follows:

Proclaim LIBERTY throughout all the Land unto all the Inhabitants thereof Lev. XXV X
By Order of the ASSEMBLY of the Province of PENSYLVANIA for the State House in Philada
Pass and Stow

The source of the inscription is , which reads "And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof: it shall be a jubile unto you; and ye shall return every man unto his possession, and ye shall return every man unto his family."

18th century history

Ordering of the bell from the Whitechapel Bell Foundry and first crack

The bell was ordered in 1745 or 1751 by the Pennsylvania Provincial Assembly for use in the Pennsylvania State House (now known as Independence Hall) in Philadelphia. It was cast by the Whitechapel Bell Foundry in London and delivered to Philadelphia in late August/early September 1752 via the ship Hibernia. It cost £100, weighed 2,080 lbs, is twelve feet in the lip circumference, and three feet from the lip to the top. The following March, the bell was hung from temporary scaffolding in the square outside the State House. To the dismay of onlookers, the bell cracked during testing. Isaac Norris, speaker of the Pennsylvania Assembly, wrote "I had the mortification to hear that it was cracked by a stroke of the clapper without any other viollence as it was hung up to try the sound."

Recasting of the bell by Pass and Stow and hanging in State House steeple

While a replacement from Whitechapel was ordered, the bell was recast by John Dock Pass and John Stow of Philadelphia, whose surnames appear inscribed on the bell. Pass and Stow added copper to the composition of the alloy used to cast the bell, and the tone of the bell proved unsatisfactory. The two recast the bell yet again, restoring the correct balance of metal, and this third bell was hung in the steeple of the State House in June 1753.

The American War of Independence

Tradition holds that the bell was rung to announce the opening of the First Continental Congress in 1774 and after the Battle of Lexington and Concord in 1775.

After Washington's defeat at the Battle of Brandywine on September 11, 1777, the revolutionary capital of Philadelphia was defenseless, and the city prepared for what was seen as an inevitable British attack on the city. The Supreme Executive Council of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania ordered that eleven bells, including the State House bell and the bells from Christ Church and St. Peter's Church, be taken down and removed from the city to prevent the British, who might melt the bells down to cast into cannons, from taking possession of them. A train of over 700 wagons, guarded by 200 cavalry from North Carolina and Virginia and under the command of Colonel Thomas Polk of the 4th Regiment North Carolina Continental Line, left Philadelphia for Bethlehem, Pennsylvania in the Lehigh Valley. Hidden in the manure and hay were the bells, and hidden in the wagon of Northampton County militia private John Jacob Mickley was the State House bell. On September 18, the entourage and armed escort arrived in Richland Township (present-day Quakertown, Pennsylvania). On September 23, the bishop of the Moravian Church in Bethlehem reported that the wagons had arrived, and all bells except the State House bell had been moved to Northampton-Towne (present-day Allentown, Pennsylvania). The following day, the State House bell was transferred to the wagon of Frederick Leaser and taken to the historic Zion's Reformed Church in center city Allentown, where it was stored (along with the other bells), under the floorboards. On September 26, British forces marched into Philadelphia, unopposed, and occupied the city. The bell was restored to Philadelphia in June of 1778, after the end of the British occupation.

19th Century

During the 19th century, the bell tolled at the death of Alexander Hamilton (1804), Lafayette's return to Philadelphia (1824), the deaths of Adams and Jefferson (1826), Washington's 100th birthday celebration (1832) and the deaths of Lafayette (1834), John Marshall (1835) and William Henry Harrison (1841).

In 1839, William Lloyd Garrison's anti-slavery publication The Liberator reprinted a Boston abolitionist pamphlet containing a poem about the Bell, entitled, "The Liberty Bell," which represents the first known usage (in print) of the name, "Liberty Bell."

It is not certain when the second crack appeared (the first after the recastings), but the bell was repaired in February 1846. The method of repair, known as stop drilling, required drilling along the hairline crack so that the sides of the fracture would not reverberate.

On February 22, 1846, the bell was tolled for several hours in the tower of Independence Hall in honor of George Washington's birthday. When the bell was rung, the crack grew from the top of the repaired crack to the crown of the bell, rendering the bell unusable. Contrary to appearances, the large crevice that currently exists in the Liberty Bell is a repair from the expansions, and not the crack itself.

In 1852, the bell was removed from its steeple, and put on display in the "Declaration Chamber" of Independence Hall. In the meantime, a "Centennial Bell" replica was given as a gift to Philadelphia in 1876. The bell was cast by Meneely & Kimberly, a Troy, New York, bell foundry in June 1876. A third bell hangs in a modern tower nearby. Cast at the same British foundry as the original, this replica, called the Bicentennial Bell, was given to the people of the United States by Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain during a visit to Philadelphia in 1976.

From 1885-1915, the Liberty Bell traveled to numerous cities and was displayed at expositions and world's fairs.

20th and 21st century

In 1902, the Liberty Bell was involved in a train accident when the locomotive transporting the bell to an exposition in South Carolina derailed after a collision with another train. In November 1915, the bell took its last nationwide tour while returning from the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco. In the 1930s, it was determined that moving the bell from location to location was too risky, and the practice was ended.

On January 1, 1976, in anticipation of increased visitation during the bicentennial year of American independence, the Liberty Bell was relocated from Independence Hall to a glass pavilion one block north (at the southwest corner of 5th and Market Streets, about 100 yards). This small, unadorned pavilion proved somewhat unpopular with many visitors and this led to the idea of having a larger pavilion created, which finally opened in 2003. At this smaller pavilion, people were able to walk up to and even touch the bell, an activity prohibited at the new site. Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain visited Philadelphia in 1976 and presented a gift to the American people of a replica "Bicentennial Bell", cast in the same British foundry as the original. This 1976 bell now hangs in the Independence Living History Center near Independence Hall.

That same year, a group of 30 demonstrators from the Procrastinator's Society of America turned out before the Whitechapel Foundry in London where they "...mounted a mock protest over the bell's defects and ... marched up and down ... with placards proclaiming WE GOT A LEMON and WHAT ABOUT THE WARRANTY?" The Whitechapel Foundry told the protesters that they "...would be happy to replace the bell — as long as it was returned to us in its original packaging."

On April 1, 1996, the fast food restaurant chain Taco Bell took out a full-page advertisement in The New York Times and The Philadelphia Inquirer announcing that they had purchased the bell to "reduce the country's debt" and renamed it to "the Taco Liberty Bell". Thousands of people who did not immediately get the April Fool's Day hoax protested.

On April 6, 2001, the Liberty Bell was struck several times with a hammer by Mitchell Guilliatt, a self-described wanderer from Nebraska. He hit the bell four times while shouting "God lives!" The reason he gave was to declare his independence from the United States of America and not to attempt to deface or destroy the bell. After repairs, the damage caused by his striking of the bell was no longer visible. Gulliatt was sentenced to nine months jail time plus five years probation. He was also ordered to pay $7,093 to cover the cost of repairing the damage he made.

In October 2003, the bell was moved a short distance southwest to a new pavilion, the Liberty Bell Center. There was some controversy about the site chosen for the new structure, which was just to the south of the site of where George Washington had lived in the 1790s. After the initial planning, the building's site was found to be adjacent to the quarters for the slaves owned by Washington. The decision over how to acknowledge this fact in the display has led to some debate.

As of 2006, the bell remains in this location at the northeast corner of 6th and Chestnut Streets. The new National Constitution Center is located two blocks to the north, and Independence Hall is located directly across the street, on the south side of Chestnut Street between 5th and 6th Streets. The Bell's former pavilion at the southwest corner of 5th and Market Streets was up for purchase after the move in an effort to reduce demolition costs, but after the auction drew little response, it was converted into a security station that screens tourists traveling in and around Independence Mall. The pavilion was removed from the site in March 2006.

The Liberty Bell Center, with its storied bell, and the nearby Independence Hall, are part of Independence National Historical Park, administered by the National Park Service.

Visiting the Liberty Bell

The Liberty Bell Center is open daily with the exception of Christmas Day from 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. with extended hours of operation during the summer months. No tickets are required; however, visitors must submit to a security checkpoint before entering, similar to security at a U.S. airport. Over two million tourists visit the bell per year.

Replicas of the Liberty Bell and other bells

One replica of the Liberty Bell is the Illinois Freedom Bell, which was cast in the early 1860s, and is located in Mount Morris, Illinois. Citizens Bank Park, home of the Philadelphia Phillies baseball team, features a large neon version of the bell that is illuminated and swung back and forth each time a member of the team hits a home run or the team wins a game. Veterans Stadium, former home of the Phillies and Philadelphia Eagles, was capped with an iron replica of the bell. An earlier image of the bell, located at the top of the stadium's scoreboard (predating the one near the stadium's top) was once hit by a home run in 1972 by Phillies player Greg "The Bull" Luzinski. There is also a full scale replica of the bell in the Liberty Square area of the Magic Kingdom park in the Walt Disney World Resort. The bell is rung on real-life American holidays of particular significance to the American Revolution. A full scale replica with a painted-on crack hangs in the Rotunda of the Academic Building at Texas A&M University. It was presented to the school in recognition of the numerous Texas Aggies who fought in World War II. There is a full scale replica in Buena Park, California, and a 3/4 scale Independence Hall just outside of Knott's Berry Farm.

As part of the Liberty Bell Savings Bonds drive in 1950, replicas were ordered by the United States Department of the Treasury and were cast in France. The purpose of the bells was to be transported around each state to drum up support for the purchase of savings bonds. After the bond drive was completed, the replicas were given to each state, as well as Alaska and Hawaii (which were not yet states), Washington D.C., Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Many of the bells today are in the state capitols.

Outside of the United States, replicas of the Liberty Bell can be found in Belgium, Germany, Israel, and Japan.

The Liberty Bell in Berlin was inspired by the American Liberty Bell, although it is not a replica, but a distinct bell. It was given as a gift from Americans to the city of Berlin, as a symbol of the fight for freedom and against communism in Europe in 1950.

Sister Bell

The replacement bell ordered from the Whitechapel Bell Foundry in 1753 became known as the "Sister Bell". It was installed at the Pennsylvania State House (Independence Hall), and attached to the State House clock. The Sister Bell rang the hours until the late 1820s, when the bell was removed during a renovation and loaned to the Olde St. Augustine Church in Philadelphia. In 1829, the bell was hung in a new cupola and tower designed by architect William Strickland. There it remained until May 8, 1844, when it was destroyed, along with the Olde St. Augustine Church, during the Philadelphia Nativist Riots. The friars of St. Augustine had the "Sister Bell" recast and transferred to Villanova University, which had been established in 1842. It is currently enshrined in the Falvey Memorial Library on Villanova's campus.

See also

External links


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