In 1751, the Pennsylvania Assembly ordered the creation of a bell to celebrate the 50th anniversary of William Penn’s Charter of Privileges. The Liberty Bell, as it would eventually be called, is one of America’s most recognized symbols of liberty. There’s part of a Bible verse inscribed on the bell. “Proclaim Liberty Throughout All the Land Unto All the Inhabitants thereof.” Comes from Leviticus 25:10.
A Little History
The first bell was delivered on September 1, 1752 in Philadelphia and then hung on March 10, 1753. But when it was hit with the clapper to ring it, the bell cracked. No one knew what had caused the problem, so two foundry workers melted down the bell and recast it, hoping to make it stronger.
The new version was raised on March 29, 1753. But citizens didn’t like the way it sounded, so the bell was recast again. On June 11, 1753, the newest bell was hung, but in November, a request for another bell was put forth. There were four tries all together, but it is the third bell that was kept.
In October 1777, the bell was removed and hidden in the floorboards of the Zion Reformed Church in Allentown, PA after the British occupied the city so that it wouldn’t be taken and melted down for cannons.
No one knows for sure when or how the first crack appeared in the Liberty Bell, but the one to end it all in 1846 happened on President George Washington’s birthday – February 23. Although there were hairline cracks before this day, Washington’s birthday was the last time the bell ever rang.
The Traveling Bell
After the Civil War, the bell was taken to various cities across the nation before retiring in Pennsylvania at the Liberty Bell Center, where it can still be seen today. Its symbol of freedom and liberty was so inspirational that a copy was built in 1915 to promote the right of women to vote. It was shown across the country. The clapper was chained to its side so that it couldn’t ring, representing silence, and remained that way (chained in silence) until women received the right to vote.
Today, the Liberty Bell still plays an important part in American history and tradition. At 2 p.m. Eastern time on the Fourth of July, the descendants of the original Declaration signers tap the bell 13 times (while bells across the U.S. ring 13 times) in honor of the patriots from the original 13 states. Since 1986, after Dr. Martin Luther King’s widow requested it, the bell is tapped in his honor.