Liberty Bell

Myths abound surrounding the Liberty Bell. Stories are told as to when it first rang, what caused the crack, and the last time its tone was heard. Regardless of the myths, however, the significance of the Liberty Bell to the American Revolution and the early republic will forever mark it as one of the key symbols of independence.

History of the Liberty Bell

In 1751, the Assembly of the Province of Pennsylvania ordered a bell from Whitechapel Foundry in England, to weigh roughly 2000 pounds. Ironically, the inscription chosen for the bell a full quarter century before the revolution read: “Proclaim Liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof . . .”

Fate, it seemed, had cast the bell”s destiny as a symbol of the Revolution as surely as the foundry had cast its form.

The legend of the bell cracking the first time it was rung is historically accurate, although it occurred in March of 1753, not on the Fourth of July. Colonists attempted to return the bell to England, but when the ship”s master was unable to load it on board, they had to settle for adding copper to the bell”s metal alloy. Unfortunately, this deadened its tone.

A second recasting corrected that problem and the bell, then known as the State House Bell, was hung in Philadelphia”s State House until 1777. It was temporarily removed to Allentown, PA during the threat of British invasion of Philadelphia, and subsequently returned in the summer of 1778.

When and how did the bell ring its last? While romance and legend have attached it to the tolling to mark the passing of Chief Justice John Marshall in 1835, the celebration of Washington”s Birthday, the signing of the Constitution and other historical events, the actual date may never be known. What is certain is the crack line follows the line of the clapper and may have been the result of improper operation.

Whitechapel Foundry also produced the Great Bell of Westminster, more commonly known as Big Ben and as much a symbol to England as the Liberty Bell is to America.

Nonetheless, the Liberty Bell has, in a very real sense, tolled the beginning of American Independence and to this day stands as a universal symbol proclaiming freedom from tyranny.