The Liberty Bell must be both one of the most famous bells in the world as well as one of the most potent symbols of American Independence. It is also a great place to visit on the 4th of July. The Liberty Bell was previously known as the Old State House Bell or the State House Bell. Today it is on display at the Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia. It certainly must be the most famous poorly wrought bells in the world. It cracked the first time it was rung in Philadelphia requiring it to be fixed and it was recast. Today is one of the best historical spots to visit in Philadelphia.

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History Of The Bell

The bell was ordered from a British company, the Whitechapel Foundry in London back in 1751. After it cracked, it had to be recast. To cast it, the local Philadelphia metalworkers had to melt it and make a new one out of the old one.

  • Commissioned: In 1752

In the beginning, its function was to summon lawmakers to legislative sessions. It also served to alert the public about important proclamations and various public meetings. As there was no announcement immediately after the vote for independence, it would not have rung on that fateful 4th of July date. Instead, it would likely have rung four days later on the 8th of July as the United States Declaration of Independence was read out to the public. That being said there is no good evidence it ran on the 8th either.

Benjamin Franklin referred to the bell and its summons when he wrote to Catherine Ray long before the Revolution in 1755, "Adieu, the Bell rings, and I must go among the Grave ones and talk Politicks."

  • Orginal Weight: 2,080 lbs
  • Composition: 70% Copper, 25% Tin, Small Amounts of Lead, Gold, Arsenic, Silver, And Zinc
  • Bell's Wooden Yoke: American Elm

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Like many things from history, they weren't seen as important or significant at the time. It would be over half a century later in the 1830s that the old State House bell would start to take on its roles as a symbol of American liberty.

As history would have it after it had been recast it lasted much longer than the first mold. While the first mold cracked on the first chime, the last mold likely didn't crack until the 1840s. That's after an impressive 90 odd years of heavy use. In 1846 the city of Philadelphia decided to repair the bell just before George Washington's birthday holiday.

The 1846 "Repair" Job

Oddly enough in order to repair the crack, the thin crack that had crept along with the bell was widened. Widening the crack served the purpose of stopping the spread of the crack and restoring the tone. The technique is called "stop drilling". Thus the bell as is seen today is actually "repaired". A discerning observer will notice some 40 drill bit marks around the crack. Still, the repair job failed and it soon developed another fissure. The second crack ran from the inscription "Philadelphia" to the word "Liberty". That this point the bell was beyond it and needed retirement. This second fissure silenced the bell forever.

The Inscription

The Liberty Bell has the inscription, "Proclaim LIBERTY Throughout all the Land unto all the Inhabitants Thereof" quoting from Leviticus 25.10 in the Bible. This is a verse that refers to the Jubilee year where the Israelites were to free their slaves once every 50 years. And not their arrival in the land as that was conquest and not liberation.

Ironically the inscription from Bible is not really about liberty in any modern sense of the word. One just had to release slaves on that Jubilee year and could acquire more slaves afterward.

  • Cost Of Admission To Liberty Bell: Free & No Tickets Required
  • Hours Open: 9.00 am To 5.00 pm
  • Independence Hall Admission: Free (Optional $1 Reserve Tickets)

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Growing Significance

Oddly enough it was not the Revolutionary War that made the Liberty Bell famous, but rather the run-up to the Civil War. As the 1800s progressed it was the abolitionists who started to take note of the bell inspired by its inscription. One of the first references in this light was in 1835 in the Anti-Slavery Record. It was the first to call it the "Liberty Bell". One of the catalysts in the bell's rise to fame was in the fictional story "Ring, Grandfather, Ring," by George Lippard in 1847 as he used it to symbolize the new nation of America.

Post Civil War it became a unifying symbol of America's common struggle for independence. Later it was adopted by the Women's Suffrage Movement as well as Civil Rights movements as they claimed their rights to liberty.

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