October 2013 OFRW Americanism Report
By Vi MacDonald
The Liberty Bell is a symbol of American Independence and is located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The bell was commissioned from the London firm of Whitechapel Bell Foundry in 1752, and was cast with lettering from the Bible (part of Leviticus 25:10, “Proclaim Liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.”). It originally cracked when first rung after arrival in Philadelphia, and twice was recast by local workmen John Pass and John Stow, whose last names appear on the bell. It was made of copper and tin and weighed 2,040 pounds and its circumference was 12 feet.
After Washington’s defeat in 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. Bells could easily be recast into munitions and locals feared the Liberty Bell would meet this fate. The bell was quickly taken down from its tower and sent by a heavily guarded wagon train to transport the bell to the Zion German Reformed Church in Allentown, Pennsylvania. There the Bell waited out the British occupation of Philadelphia hidden in the floor boards of the church. It was returned to Philadelphia in June 1778, after the British departure.
From 1790-1800, when Philadelphia was the nation’s capital, uses of the Bell included calling the State Legislature into session, summoning voters to hand in their ballots at the State House window, tolling to commemorate Washington’s birthday and to celebrate the Fourth of July. After American Independence was secured, it was forgotten for several years. However, in the 1830’s, the Bell was adopted as a symbol by abolitionist societies who dubbed it the “Liberty Bell”.
In 1865, after President Lincoln’s assassination, there was a public viewing of his open casket en-route to his burial in Springfield, Illinois. The lines to view the President were never less than three miles long. The Liberty Bell was carefully placed at Lincoln’s head so mourners could read the inscription, “Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof”.
Between 1885-1915 the Liberty Bell made seven trips to various expositions and celebrations. Each time the Bell traveled by rail, the train made stops along the way so the local people could view it. At a stop in Biloxi, Mississippi, the former President of the Confederate States of America - Jefferson Davis - came to the Bell. He delivered a speech paying homage to it, and urging national unity. July 4, 1893, America’s Band Leader - John Philip Sousa - conducted the first performance of The Liberty Bell March. However, travels to various events stopped when it returned from a trip to Chicago bearing a new crack.
A replica of the Liberty Bell was used in 1915 to promote women’s suffrage. It traveled the country with its clapper chained to its side, silent until women won the right to vote. On September 25, 1920, it was brought to Independence Hall and rung in ceremonies celebrating the ratification of the 19th Amendment.
In 1940, Congress enacted the nation’s first peacetime draft. The first Philadelphians required to serve took their oaths of enlistment before the Liberty Bell. Once World War II started, the Bell became a symbol used to sell war bonds. The Bell also was chosen for the symbol of a savings bond campaign in 1950. Then, Vice-President Allen Barkley said the purpose of this campaign was to make the country “so strong that no one can impose ruthless, godless ideologies on us”.
Almost from the beginning, the Park Service wanted to move the Bell from Independence Hall to a structure where it would be easier to care for it and accommodate visitors. After World War II, the City of Philadelphia agreed that it would transfer custody of the Bell and Independence Hall – while retaining ownership – to the federal government. In 1951, the National Park Service became responsible for maintaining and displaying the Bell.
In the postwar period, the Bell became a symbol of freedom used in the Cold War. In 1955, former residents of nations behind the Iron Curtain were allowed to tap the bell as a symbol of hope and encouragement to their compatriots.
In 2001, a visitor with a hammer attacked the bell. Due to security concern following this attack, the Bell is now hung out of reach of visitors who are no longer allowed to touch it, and all visitors must undergo a security screening. The Liberty Bell Center was opened in October 2003. It is located at 6th and Market Streets in the Historic District of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Bell is visible from the street 24 hours a day.
On every Fourth of July at 2:00 PM Eastern time, children who are descendants of Declaration of Independence signers symbolically tap the Liberty Bell 13 times while bells across the nation also ring 13 times in honor of the patriots from the original 13 states.
Pictures and Web Sites supplementing the LIBERTY BELL article:
For pictures - with captions - of the Liberty Bell, some of its travels and famous people visiting it through the years as well as its new home in Independence Park –
Click on the “next photo” option at the bottom of each picture to view all 10 pictures.
To hear the “President’s Own Band” (the United States Marine Band) play The Liberty Bell March - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x7FD9PNpfpo