by Gerald Boerner
Today we celebrate that great symbol of our independence, the Liberty Bell. As we went through school, we heard and/or read stories about this bell in the Philadelphia Statehouse being rung to alert the people of that city that our brave Founding Fathers had just created a document, the Declaration of Independence, had been signed.
With all the enthusiasm of that day, the bell cracked and became largely symbolic, although it was run on July 4th of 1826, the day that two of our foremost Founding Fathers, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, died within hours of each other.
The bell now is on display in its own for all the tourists and school children can see it. It has been replaced with a substitute bell in the steeple of Independence Hall. GLB
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“How I longed to see these things; how I longed to see the Liberty Bell and walk on the streets where Thomas Jefferson, Tom Paine and Benjamin Franklin had walked.”
— Burl Ives
“Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”
— John Donne
“Every now and then, I strike something that just goes click, you know, in my head. As Gertrude Stein used to say, it rings the bell, and I feel, this is great.”
— James Laughlin
“I was allowed to ring the bell for five minutes until everyone was in assembly. It was the beginning of power.”
— Jeffrey Archer
“My recipe for dealing with anger and frustration: set the kitchen timer for twenty minutes, cry, rant, and rave, and at the sound of the bell, simmer down and go about business as usual.”
— Phyllis Diller
“But just as they did in Philadelphia when they were writing the constitution, sooner or later, you’ve got to compromise. You’ve got to start making the compromises that arrive at a consensus and move the country forward.”
— Colin Powell
“In the beginning, everybody that gets to work with me, thinks I’m nice. But three weeks later, they hear a bell ringing. Then they realise I meant everything I said during that first week. It’s not my fault people are not taking me serious from the first moment.”
— Andrew Eldritch
“At noon, on the Fourth of July, 1826, while the Liberty Bell was again sounding its old message to the people of Philadelphia, the soul of Thomas Jefferson passed on; and a few hours later John Adams entered into rest, with the name of his old friend upon his lips.”
— Allen Johnson
The Liberty Bell
The Liberty Bell, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is 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.
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. Historians today consider this highly doubtful, as the steeple in which the bell was hung had deteriorated significantly by that time. 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.
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 [sic] for the State House in Philada
Pass and Stow
The source of the inscription is Leviticus 25:10, 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 and First Crack
The bell was ordered in 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 violence sic as it was hung up to try the sound."
Recasting and Hanging
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.
American Revolutionary War
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. The bells were hidden in manure and hay, and the State House bell was hidden in the wagon of Northampton County militia private John Jacob Mickley.
On September 24, 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 following the end of the British occupation in June of 1778.
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 began (the first after the recastings), though it has been long believed to have been at the death of John Marshall in 1835. This has been rhetorically linked with the overriding of the judge’s support for the rights of the Cherokee.
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 to 1915, the Liberty Bell traveled to numerous cities and was displayed at expositions and world’s fairs.
Replicas and bells inspired by the Liberty Bell
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.
Liberty, Texas is home to an exact replica of the Liberty Bell with a history all its own. It all started when two sisters from Liberty, Sallie and Nadine Woods, who had muscular dystrophy, were looking for a symbol to represent their non-profit organization. In their search they obtained permission to have an exact replica made. The bell was cast by the Whitechapel Bell Foundry in London, England, from the original molds. In 1960 actor John Wayne was commissioned to dedicate the bell, in a major event that was held on the Liberty Courthouse grounds. John Wayne rang the bell 16 times. The Woods sisters, in the mid 1970s, donated the bell to the city of Liberty where it now resides at the Geraldine D. Humphrey Cultural Center, in Liberty.
As part of the Liberty Bell Savings Bonds drive in 1950, replicas (though not exact replicas: the crack is painted on) 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 sited on the grounds of their respective state capitols or capitol office complexes.
A replica of the Liberty Bell can be found in the Botanical Gardens of the Bellagio resort in Las Vegas.
Outside of the United States, replicas of the Liberty Bell can be found in Belgium, 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 against communism in Europe in 1950.
Similarly an imitation of the Liberty Bell was gifted to the people of the new country of Czechoslovakia in 1919 by the people of the United States of America (mainly emigres from the territory of Austria-Hungary that became Czechoslovakia). The bell remained unused for a long period but since 1980 it has been located in the north bell tower of the Kostel svatého Antonína z Padovy (Holešovice) "St. Antonin’s church" in Prague.
Other Events on this Day:
The Liberty Bell rings for the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence.
Commodore Matthew Perry sails into Tokyo Bay seeking diplomatic and trade relations between the United States and Japan.
The first issue of the Wall Street Journal is published.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average falls to 41.22, its lowest closing of the Great Depression.
General Douglas MacArthur is named commander of United Nations forces fighting in Korea.
Dates and events based on:
William J. Bennett and John Cribb, (2008) The American Patriot’s Almanac Daily Readings on America. (Kindle Edition)
Background information is from Wikipedia articles on:
Wikipedia: Liberty Bell…
Brainy Quote: Bell Quotes…