Philadelphia – Liberty Bell

Liberty Bell is one of the best known symbols of freedom in the country, although it hasn’t been the most successful bell ever made. Back in 1751 the Province of Pennsylvania decided that they’d quite like a bell for their new bell tower they were having added to their state house.

The city thought it’d like quite a nice bell, one which made a decent noise, so they spent £150 ordering one from Lester and Pack of London. The city’s new bell arrived in 1752 and although the bell tower wasn’t finished, they thought they’d put the bell on a platform to try it out. To cut a long story short, they broke it. Lester and Pack said there was a crack in it because it wasn’t rung correctly, whereas the city really just wanted their money back so they had a decent bell and not a rickety one.

However, being pragmatic, and primarily since the ship owner wouldn’t traipse this bell back again to London, the city found two local handymen to recast the bell. This was another bloody disaster, the first attempt of fixing the new bell sounded ridiculous when they rang it and then they botched the second repair. The city just gave up and bought a new bell and used that as the bell tower clock. That new bell incidentally was later caught up in a church fire, well riot, and had to be recast.

But the original bell was shoved into the Assembly House and sort of used occasionally. Rumour has it that it sounded during the Declaration of Independence, although this is just a guess. Then the bell split during the early nineteenth century, although it’s not entirely clear when it split, so that was covered up well. Incidentally, the two local handymen also put cheap pewter into the bell when they recast it, which didn’t help its strength.

So, moving to the late nineteenth century, by which time the bell had become synonymous with liberty and freedom. So much so that the bell went on tour across the United States, to allow as many people as possible to see it. Much of this was in keeping with the values of liberty and freedom, as it was hoped that the bell could help unify the country after the bitter American Civil War.

The moving about of the bell across the country was very popular. The city liked how popular their bell was, but they were less pleased to discover that people keep chipping bits off of it. The bell lost 1% of its weight, and it was so easy to chip as the two local handymen had sneaked in cheap materials.

The damage to the bell meant that the city authorities didn’t want it transported about any more, so it returned home to Philadelphia permanently. In 1948, the bell was moved to Independence Hall and it has since been moved to a new dedicated centre over the road. And here it remains on display.

Two decorative items from the late nineteenth century, made from bits of the bell that some hooligan had chipped off.

And here’s the bell in all its beauty. It wasn’t too long a queue to see the bell, the main delay is the security process that visitors have to go through. It was certainly nice to see the bell up close and the museum told the story of the bell and its meaning in an interesting manner.