The Liberty Bell

The Liberty Bell

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  1. The liberty bell is perhaps the most ubiquitous symbol of American freedom and independence.  While being a representation of the freedoms the United States stands for, the bell itself has an eventful history, and over the years has represented different types of freedom to different people. 


    Early History

    The bell was not originally named the Liberty Bell, but instead the State House Bell, as it was cast for use in the Pennsylvania state house in Philadelphia.  It was ordered from a bell maker in England in the year 1751 in order to commemorate the 50 year anniversary of William Penn’s Charter of Privileges, a charter listing the freedoms and liberties of the inhabitants of Pennsylvania.


    Ringing of the bell

    Legend declares that the bell was rung at the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776.  Today historians believe this is most likely false, as at this time the steeple of the state house that held the bell was in poor condition and the bell would not have been able to be rung.  Yet this legend persists in the American memory, and because of this the bell is often associated with the signing of the Declaration of Independence.  Throughout the years, the bell was typically rung on important occasions, such as on holidays and during celebrations including Washington’s birthday and the Fourth of July, as well as calling the state legislator to session.    


    The Crack

    Soon after the bell was installed, a crack developed that rendered the bell inoperable.  The damaged bell was given to John Pass and John Stowe, local bell makers, who melted down the bell and recasted it to make a new bell.  In 1846 the bell developed a small crack that was mended, yet later in the same year an irreparable crack developed when it was rung in celebration of Washington’s birthday.  The bell has not been rung since. 



    The Liberty Bell is best known for its role as a symbol of freedom and independence in the United States.  The bell itself has the inscription "Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof,” a quote from Leviticus 25, v 10.  This quote was first added to celebrate the charter of William Penn, but in future generations it was interpreted to act as a symbol for other groups.  During the revolutionary war it acted as a symbol of the colonist’s liberty.  The bell was once again turned to during the 1830s as a symbol of the abolitionist movement, that being the group that advocated for the freedom of slaves.  The bell was used as a representation of the liberties that all men and women share.  It was during this time that the bell was named the "Liberty Bell," the name that it is still known by today.  After the civil war, the bell made a tour of the United States, in an effort to reunite the country after the devastations of the 1860s. 


    Today, the bell resides on view in Philadelphia.  It still acts as a symbol of America’s freedom and independence throughout not just the United States, but the world. 

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