Liberty Bell

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Liberty Bell

The Liberty Bell, located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is a historical bell and well- recognized symbol of American freedom and independence. The bell started life in 1751 when it was commissioned for use in the Pennsylvania State House (now better known as Independence Hall) by the Pennsylvania Provincial Assembly. It came to the city in the fall of the next year after having been cast by London’s Whitechapel Bell Foundry. Several months later, the new State House still not completed, the bell hung in a public square via scaffolding. The first time the bell was rung, however, it cracked. A replacement bell was quickly cast by Philadelphia residents John Pass and John Stow (their names can be found inscribed on the bell). However, when this second bell proved to have an unpleasant tone, Pass and Stow commissioned a third casting, and this was the cast that ended up hanging from the State House. The two most famous bell rings occurred shortly thereafter, once in 1774 at the opening of the First Continental Congress, and then again in 1175 at the conclusion of The Battle of Lexington and Concord.
The bell ended up being removed, however, just three years later in 1777 when the defeat of General George Washington to the British at The Battle of Brandywine left Philadelphia without a revolutionary defense. To safeguard the bells from being melted down by the British, it was ordered that the State House Bell, including the bells from St. Peter’s Church and Christ Church, be removed and safeguarded. The bells were hidden in wagons, covered by hay and manure, which were being led from Philadelphia to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania under the direction of Colonel Thomas Polk. On September 23, 1777, the bells were received in Bethlehem, and most of the bells were moved for storage in present- day Allentown. The State House Bell, however, was taken to a separate church by itself, and was buried under the floorboards of the Zion’s Reformed Church. Just five days later the British completed their occupation of Philadelphia, and the bell remained in hiding until the end of the occupation in 1778, when it was restored to the State House.
In the following years, the State House Bell was rung on special occasions, such as deaths of important figures in the American Revolution and on George Washington’s 100th birthday. In 1839, the name “Liberty Bell” was used for the first time by William Lloyd Garrison in his poem, “The Liberty Bell.” In February 1846 a second crack was repaired on the bell, by a method known as drilling, which smoothes the sides of the crack so they don’t vibrate. During that same month, The Liberty Bell was rung repeatedly in honor of Washington’s birthday. This continuous ringing reopened the old crack, and made it grow to the crown of the bell. This large fracture made the bell unusable. A few years later, in 1852, the bell was removed from the steeple of Independence Hall and placed on display in the building’s Declaration Chamber.

The bell remained in Independence Hall for many years afterward, with the exception of 1885-1915, when it was sent by train to cities around the country for exposition. Tragedy almost struck the bell when it was involved in a train collision and derailment in 1902. In 1915, the government decided that transporting the bell proved too much risk, and it was placed back in Philadelphia. In 1976, a replication of the original Liberty Bell, called the Bicentennial Bell, was gifted to The United States by Queen Elizabeth II; this bell was hung in a nearby modern-day tower.

In 2003 The Liberty Bell Center, a new home and exhibition hall for the bell, was constructed just a short distance from Independence Hall. Today, the new center, along with Independence Hall, National Constitution Center, and Independence Mall are all apart of Independence National Historical Park, and can be visited for free every day of the year, except Christmas.

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