The Pennsylvania Assembly ordered a bell for the tower of Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania , in 1751. The bell, known as the Liberty Bell, was to commemorate the fifty-year anniversary of William Penn 's 1701 Charter of Privileges, the state's original constitution. Penn wrote of the freedoms and rights valued by people all over the world. Because of that idea of freedom, abolitionists (those who fought against slavery ) adopted the Liberty Bell as their symbol. (See Abolition Movement .)
A line from the Bible, “Proclaim Liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof,” is inscribed on the bell. Also inscribed is the line, “By Order of the Assembly of the Province of Pensylvania for the State House in Philada.” The spelling of “Pennsylvania” had not yet been formalized, and it is spelled with one “n” in the original constitution as well as on original maps of the thirteen colonies . “Philada” was an abbreviation for “Philadelphia.”
Took a few tries
The bell, which was forged by Whitechapel Foundry, arrived in Philadelphia in September 1752, although it was not hung until March 10, 1753. During that initial hanging, the bell cracked. Experts of the day believed the crack was due to the iron being too brittle, but more modern experts think the casting process itself was flawed, leaving the bell imperfect.
John Pass and John Stow, Philadelphia foundry workers, added copper to the bell hoping to make it less brittle, but the townsfolk disliked the sound of the mended bell. The two workers tried again. This time, they completely recast the bell. Isaac Norris, one of the original writers of the letter that was sent to order the bell, disliked the tone of the new bell and asked that another bell be made by Whitechapel.
When the new bell arrived, it sounded no better than the bell that had been recast by Pass and Stow. So the original Liberty Bell remains in the steeple, and the newer bell hangs in the dome of the roof of the state house. It is attached to a clock and rings on the hour.
There is a legend dating back to 1847 that tells of eager Americans waiting to hear the news that independence had been declared in 1776. An elderly bellman was waiting word in the steeple while his young grandson eavesdropped on Congress. When the boy supposedly heard the declaration made behind closed doors, he yelled to his grandfather to ring the bell. Since that time, the bell has been associated with the Declaration of Independence .
LIBERTY BELL. The bell that would become the Liberty Bell was ordered by the Pennsylvania assembly in 1752 from London's Whitechapel Foundry. The inscription, in two lines around its circumference, read: "By order of the Assembly of the Province of Pensylvania for the State house in the City of Phila 1752" and "Proclaim Liberty thro' all the Land to all the Inhabitants thereof.—Levit. XXV.10." It arrived at Philadelphia in August 1752 and cracked upon testing. It was recast in Philadelphia and hung in the steeple of the State House in June 1753. The 2,080-pound bell, over five feet tall, was rung on many occasions during the imperial crisis, sometimes muffled if the news was considered to be a blow to American liberties. Tradition says that it rang out on 8 July 1776 after the Declaration of Independence was read on the steps of the State House, but given the decrepit state of the steeple, there is reason to doubt the tradition. Because the British were about to occupy Philadelphia, the bell was taken down on 23 September 1777 and carried to Allentown, Pennsylvania. It was brought back on 27 June 1778 but not re-hung for seven years, until a new steeple was constructed in 1785. Rung on many special occasions over the next half century, it seems to have begun to crack sometime in 1835. The final damage, a two-foot-long zigzag crack which silenced it, occurred in 1846 when it was rung on Washington's birthday. The first documented use of the name "Liberty Bell" occurred in 1839 in William Lloyd Garrison's anti-slavery newspaper, The Liberator.
revised by Harold E. Selesky
LIBERTY BELL. The bell was commissioned by the Pennsylvania Assembly in 1751 to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of William Penn's 1701 Charter of Privileges. Whitechapel Foundry produced the bell, which cracked as it was being tested. The bell is inscribed with the words from Leviticus 25:10 "Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof." It tolled for the reading of the Declaration of Independence on July 8, 1776. During the British occupation of Philadelphia in 1777, the bell was hidden away. After it was rung for Washington's birthday in 1846, the crack widened, rendering the bell unringable. It is now ceremoniously tapped each Fourth of July.
Kramer, Justin. Cast in America. Los Angeles: J. Kramer, 1975.