Today I’m visiting the Libery Bell – one of the symbols of the United States, Freedom, and of course Liberty. It is an icon used throughout Philadelphia on everything from murals to baseball uniforms.
I’ve just made it to the Liberty Bell Center just before closing, so I’m one of the last groups into the building. This is fun for me because normally the bell is surrounded by selfie-takers ruining my unobstructed view of the bell. I can wait them out!
First things first, a National Park Service Ranger tells the story of the Liberty Bell.
Originally known as the State House Bell, the Liberty Bell was cast in 1752 at Whitechapel Foundry in London and shipped to Philadelphia. Upon its first ringing in Philadelphia, the bell cracked.
Two local men, John Pass and John Stow, recast it and it is this bell that was hung in the tower of Independence Hall (aka the Pennsylvania State House).
On July 8, 1776, the day the Declaration of Independence was read aloud behind the State House, all the bells of the city rang throughout the day; it is assumed that the State House Bell was among them.
Okay thanks, Ranger, now out of the way so we all can get the photos we desperately need for our feeds!
Looking a little closer at the bell, you can see the names of Pass and Stow, the massive yoke made from American Elm, and of course the unique “crack.”
As mentioned earlier, the Liberty Bell cracked on the very first ring. Philadelphia officials wanted to send it right back to the foundry that made it, but the ship couldn’t take it on.
So, the local guys, Pass and Stow, melted it down, added some copper (and some cheap pewter when they should have added tin) and recast the bell. The tone produced by this bell supposedly sounded terrible and Pass and Stow melted it down again. This third iteration of the bell had an acceptable tone and is the bell we see today.
Sometime between 1841 and 1845 the bell developed another small, hairline crack.
The iconic “crack” that we see today is actually supposed to be a fix for that hairline crack. In 1846 the hairline crack was drilled out. The idea was that it could retain its tone when struck but prevent the crack from spreading.
In 1777, to prevent the British from melting it down for munitions, the Bell was whisked away from Philadelphia under armed guard and taken to Allentown, Pa.
There, it was hidden in under the floorboards of a church. The fear was the British would melt the Bell and use it to make cannons. It came back to Philadelphia the following year.
The bell hung in the state house for years before developing the crack that silenced it. It toured the country as recently as 1915. Because souvenir hunters knocked off large parts of it to keep, it was decided to stop the tours.
Since the bell returned to Philadelphia, it has been moved outside only five times. Three times for patriotic observances during and after World War I and twice as the bell moved to new homes.
In 1976 the bell moved into Liberty Bell Pavillion. In 2003 it moved to its current home, the Liberty Bell Center.
Just one more group to wait out until the Liberty Bell is all mine!
Unlike Independence Hall – there are no timed tickets needed. Just get in line while the hall is still open.
Open daily at 9am, check the Liberty Bell website to see what time the hall closes.