The Liberty Bell
One of the most well-known symbols in America is the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It rang out on July 8, 1776 proclaiming a new birth of freedom in America. Liberty means freedom, and the bell represents the freedom the citizens of the United Sates enjoy under a democratic government.
The Pennsylvania Assembly initially had the idea of the Liberty Bell in 1751 when they ordered the construction of a monument to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Charter of Privileges, which was an outline for the state's government by the founder of Pennsylvania, William Penn. The state Assembly ordered a bell for the steeple of the Pennsylvania State House.
The bell was made in England by the Whitechapel Foundry and arrived in America on September 1, 1752, but it was not hung in the chapel until over seven months later, on March 10, 1753. The bell is mostly made of 70% copper, 25% tin, and 5% of other metals. After it was hung, the clapper strung the side of the bell so hard, it made a crack in the large bell.
Everyone was disappointed, so the head of the project, State Assembly Speaker Isaac Norris sent the bell back to England for repair. It was repaired and returned a few weeks later, and on March 29, 1753 it was rehung in the steeple.
This time the bell did not crack, but the sound it made was very unpleasant to the people of Philadelphia. Again, it was sent back to England for further repair and then on June 11 it was hung again. The people still were not satisfied and Norris asked for a new bell and the workers at the Whitechapel Foundry delivered a different bell.
The new bell arrived and people were still not happy with it. They thought it sounded the same as the old bell. Norris and the company placed it in the cupola (dome) on the state house roof where it would toll the hours of the day. The other, original bell remained in the steeple.
The bell was used to call attention to important messages and events in the city, such as the 1761 announcement as King George III as a ruler of Great Britain. In addition, it was used when the Sugar Act in 1764 was repealed, and when a meeting was called to discuss the Stamp Act of 1765. Of course, famous tolls took place announcing the calling of the Continental Congress, beginning of the Revolutionary War, and in 1776 the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence on July 8.
In 1777, British soldiers occupied the city and the Liberty Bell was moved out of the city to keep it safe, and was hidden under the floor boards of the Zion Reformed Church in Allentown, Pennsylvania. In 1778, the 2,080-pound, 3-foot tall bell was returned to Philadelphia.
However, due to the state house steeple needing repairs, the bell was not rehung in the steeple because it would not hold the weight. It was not until seven years later in 1785 when the steeple was rebuilt and the Liberty Bell rehung. It tolled in 1787 to announce the ratification of the U.S. Constitution. The final expansion of the original crack is said to have occurred in 1846 commemorating Washington's Birthday.
Today, the bell no longer hangs in the steeple, but is part of the Liberty Bell Center, which was opened in October 2003. The bell is now gently tapped 13 times every 4th of July at 2:00 PM, as well as each year on Martin Luther King's Birthday.
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