1. The Liberty Bell

In 1751, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of William Penn’s Charter of Privileges, the Liberty Bell was made.

William Penn (1644 – 1718), the Quaker founder of Pennsylvania, signed the Charter of Privileges in 1701 – which guaranteed several religious and civil freedoms to its citizens.

To mark the occasion, the Assembly of Pennsylvania commissioned a ‘great bell’ for the Pennsylvania State House. The ‘great bell’ was made in London and finally arrived in Philadelphia during August 1752. Upon its first ringing a crack appeared in the bell and it had to be recast.

Later, in 1893 former, President Benjamin Harrison would say of the bell:

“This old bell was made in England, but it had to be re-cast in America before it was attuned to proclaim the right of self-government and the equal rights of men.”

Benjamin Harrison

The ‘great bell’ was officially known as the State House Bell, but as Philedelphia had so many Quakers living within its city it was nicknamed the Quaker Bell.

As the official bell of the Pennsylvania House (today called Independence Hall), it rang many times for public announcements, most notably on 8 July, 1776, when it rang to announce the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence. An icon of American freedom, the bell was cast with the inscription:

“Proclaim LIBERTY throughout all the Land unto all the inhabitants thereof” (Leviticus 25:10).

Becoming a National Symbol

The name “Liberty Bell” was first applied to the State House Bell in 1839 in an abolitionist pamphlet. The name further caught on when, in 1847, the writer George Lippard published his popular story called Fourth of July, 1776.

In the story an aged bellman on 4 July, 1776, is sitting morosely by the bell, fearing that Congress would not have the courage to declare independence. At the most dramatic moment, a young boy appears with instructions for the old man to ring the bell.

Although the State House Bell wasn’t specifically the bell used in story, many Americans associated Philadelphia’s ‘great bell’ with the freedom fought for in the revolutionary war.

From then on, the name Liberty Bell stuck.

Illustration for Fourth of July, 1776

Last Ringing

The Liberty Bell was rung for the last time for George Washington’s birthday in 1846, during which it cracked again, but this time irreparably. In 2003, the bell was relocated to its current location, which is the purpose-built Liberty Bell Centre.

Some two million people visit the bell each year.

Image from kywnewsradio.radio.com/

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