the Liberty bell

Originally known as the state house bell, the Liberty bell rang in the tower of the Pennsylvania state house, now knows as Independence hall. In 1751, Isaac Norris, the speaker for the house at that time, commissioned a bell from Whitechapel in London.  that bell cracked on the first ring test. John Pass and  John stow were local metal workers, they melted down that bell and cast a new one here in Philadelphia. that is the bell that would ring to call lawmakers to their meetings and the towns people together to hear the news.  

Benjamin Franklin wrote to Catherine Ray in 1755, "Adieu, the Bell rings, and I must go among the Grave ones and talk Politicks."

it was not untill 1830s that this old state house bell would become a symbol of liberty.

The Crack

no one know when or why this bell cracked, but it is believed that a narrow split appeared  in the early 1840s after 90 years of hard use. In 1846, the city decided to repair the bell in time for Georg Washington's birthday celebration (February 23). To repair it, metal workers widened the thin crack to prevent its farther spread and restore the tone of the bell using a technique called "stop drilling. The wide crack we see today is actually the repair job! there are over 40 drill marks visible in the crack. The repair, however, was a failure, and another fissure developed. This second crack, running from the abbreviation for "Philadelphia" up through the word "Liberty", silenced the bell forever. No one living today has heard the bell ring freely with its clapper.

The Inscription

The inscription on the bell is from King James version of the bible: "Proclaim Liberty Throughout All the Land Unto All the Inhabitants thereof." This verse is of the " Jubilee ", or the instructions to the Israelites to return property and free slaves every 50 years. Isaac Norris possibly chose this inscription because it was the 50th anniversary of William Penn's  1701 Charter of Privileges which granted religious liberties and political self-government to the people of Pennsylvania. the inscription about liberty was not seen as significant until after the revolutionary war, when abolitionists started to become inspired by the message and refer to it in writings.

The Meaning

the Liberty bell became a herald of liberty in the 1800s, abolitionists used the inscription as a rallying cry to end slavery. The first time the bell was referred to ass the liberty bell was in 1835 when an abolitionist publication referred to it as such. The name didn't immediately catch on until a few years later. Millions of Americans become familiar with the bell in popular culture thanks to   George Lippard's 1847 fictional story "Ring, Grandfather, Ring", when the bell came to symbolize pride in a new nation.

 

Beginning in 1800s the bell traveled across the country  stopping in towns for expositions and fairs.  for a country recovering from a civil war, the bell served as a reminder of a time when Americans fought together for independence . movements from women's suffrage to civil rights embraced the bell for both protest and celebration. In 1915, Pennsylvania suffragists commissioned a replica of the Liberty Bell. Their "Justice Bell" traveled across Pennsylvania to encourage support for women's voting rights legislation. After its tour, the bell was sat chained in silence until women won the right to vote in 1920 with the passage of the 19th amendment. 

Additional Bell Facts

The two lines of text around the top of the bell include the inscription of liberty, and information about who ordered the bell (Pennsylvania Assembly) and why (to go in their State House):

Proclaim LIBERTY throughout all the Land unto all the Inhabitants thereof Lev. XXV X
By Order of the ASSEMBLY of the Province of PENSYLVANIA [sic] for the State House in Philada

The information on the face of the bell tells us who cast the bell (John Pass and John Stow), where (Philadelphia) and when (1753):
Pass and Stow
Philada
MDCCLIII

The bell weighed 2,080 lbs. at order. It is made of bronze. It's 70% copper, 25% tin and contains small amounts of lead, gold, arsenic, silver, and zinc. The bell's wooden yoke is American elm, but there is no proof that it is the original yoke for this bell. While there is evidence that the bell rang to mark the Stamp Act tax and its repeal, there is no evidence that the bell rang on July 4 or 8, 1776.

Temple Anthropology Laboratory and Museum 

Gladfelter Hall- Lower Level, Temple University

1115 Polett Walk, Philadelphia, PA 19122

anthlab@temple.edu

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