History of the Liberty Bell
Author David Kimball noted, “The Liberty Bell is not only our nation’s most famous and venerated object, it has become a world-wide symbol of freedom.”1 The Bell heralded freedom from tyranny, oppression, and slavery. Its inscription, “Proclaim Liberty Throughout All the Land Unto All the Inhabitants Thereof” prescribed in 1751, was considered a prediction of America’s Declaration of Independence.
“Perhaps the secret behind this famous Bell lies in the nature of the ‘liberties’ for which it stands, and which its motto “Proclaim Liberty throughout the Land,” has
represented. For throughout the history of the Bell there have been three basic liberties embraced: the religious liberty of William Penn’s colony; the political liberty of young America; and the liberty of Blacks from slavery. In total, these liberties include men and women of all creeds, all parties and all races. Their dreams and aspirations may differ, but the underlying freedom which makes them possible is forged into this one Bell, a symbol not only for Americans but for all the peoples of the world.”2
“It is the most famous bell in the world …the most widely traveled bell in the world …the most duplicated and scale reproduced bell on the planet.” 2
1. The Story of Liberty, David Kimball – Eastern National, 1989
2. Ring in Jubilee, Charles Michael Boland – Chatham Press, 1973
1751 The Pennsylvania Assembly celebrates 50 years of civil and religious liberty under Wm. Penn’s 1701 Charter of Priviledges (Penn’s insights are later praised by both Franklin and Jefferson). Philadelphia’s rapid growth demands a larger Assembly bell. Assembly Speaker Issac Norris promotes the inscription, “Proclaim Liberty Throughout All the Land Unto All the Inhabitants Thereof,” probably at the suggestion of Benjamin Franklin. Franklin was already working on his “Plan of Union” and was certainly aware of Wm. Penn’s 1681 prediction about the area and form of goverment, “God, I believe, will bless and make it the seed of a nation.”3 The bell is referred to as the Providence Bell.4 The order for the bell is placed with the Whitechapel Bell Foundry of London England.
1752 The bell arrives in Philadelphia on September 1st. Shortly after unloading the bell, the sound is tried, and the bell cracks. Lesson: Ringing the bell by tying a rope to the 44 lb. clapper can far exceed the force applied by normal operation, i.e. swinging the bell and allowing the clapper to strike naturally.
1753 The bell is recast twice, once for repair, and once to improve the tone of the repaired bell.
1776 The bell is rung for the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence
1777 The bell is rung wildly to celebrate the first year of Independence. In September, the bell is moved to a church in Allentown to hide it from the British who would melt it for cannon and shot.
1778 The bell is returned to Philadelphia.
1831 The symbol of the Liberty Bell provides a theme for several anti-slavery pamphlets. Samuel Francis Smith writes the song America with the words “Sweet Land of Liberty …Author of Liberty …From Every Mountainside, Let Freedom Ring.”5
1835 The bell cracks while tolling the death of Chief Justice John Marshall on July 8th. There are earlier occasions when the bell was said to have cracked, each could have been extensions of a hairline crack beginning at the lip of the bell and eventually extending past the date on the face of the bell.
1846 The bell cracks while ringing for George Washington’s Birthday (the bell’s last full ring). By an act of the Pennsylavania Legislature, the bell was to ring throughout the day. Prior to the day’s events, there was concern about the hairline crack, i.e. vibration from ringing could worsen the situation. The crack was filed out to prevent the vibration, and rivets were added. The bell gave out clear loud notes until noon when the crack extended beyond the filed area and put the bell completely out of tune.3 Eventaully a brace was added inside the bell to add strength. After this, the bell would only be tapped ceremonily.
1885 Over the next 30 years the Liberty Bell went on several national tours, playing a signifcant role in rebuilding of national unity after the devastation of the Civil War.
1900 Over the next 20 years the Liberty Bell was used symbolically to support voting rights for women.
1915 The Liberty Bell is sounded as part of the first coast to coast telephone call.
1926 The Liberty Bell is sounded over the radio for the 150th birthday of the United States.
1944 The Liberty Bell is sounded over the radio on June 6th D-Day.
1963 “Let Freedom Ring” is a motto of the Civil Rights Movement – quoted by Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.5
1976 and Beyond – The Liberty Bell is sounded ceremonially each year on July 4th.
3. Ring in Jubilee, Charles Michael Boland – Chatham Press, 1973
4. “My country ’tis of Thee” Readings in Americana Shaw-Barton Publishers, Coshocton, Ohio – 1975
5. America, Samuel Francis Smith, 1831. Martin Luther King, Jr., “I Have a Dream” – 1963
Liberty Bell Specifications
- Circumference at Lip Approx. 12 feet
- Diameter at Lip 3 feet, 10 inches
- Thickness at Lip 3 inches
- Thickness at Crown 1 ¼ to 1 ½ inches
- Height at Crown 3 feet
- Height with Yoke Approx. 4.5 feet
- Weight 2080 lbs. Estimate
- Weight of Clapper 44 lbs.
- Weight of Yoke 200 lbs.
- Metal Bronze (Copper 80% and Tin 20%)
- Tuning E Old Concert Pitch
- Lettering From Thomas Lester’s Letter Stamps, (Original Bell and Our Replica)
- Engraving A crack is engraved on replica bells for authentic appearance
How Was the Liberty Bell Made?
- Small bricks are made of clay and two secret ingredients. The bricks are stacked in the shape of a bell. This is used as the base or inside form for the bell shape, referred to as a false bell.
- The brick form is coated with the same clay material until a smooth bell shape is formed. This is allowed to dry and is touched up as needed.
- The outer form for the bell consists of a large metal shell, which must be coated on the inside with the same clay material. While the clay in this outer form is still pliable, letter stamps are used to stamp in the words and numbers that will appear on the outside of the actual bell.
- When both of the forms are ready, the outer form is placed over the inner form, and the two are clamped together.
- The foundry melts copper and tin to create the liquid bronze that will be poured into the top of the bell forms. After the pouring is complete, the forms are allowed to cool over several days.
- The outside and the inner forms are separated, and the blackened clay material that adheres to the bell is cleaned off.
- When the bell has passed inspection, the yoke and clapper are added to complete the bell.
- The secret ingredients in the clay are horse manure and goat hair; this helps to reduce shrinkage and cracking in the clay. As a result, the forms are less fragile and surface of the bell is improved.
How Can You Get an Exact Replica Liberty Bell
1776 American Dream and USA-Renaissance recently worked together to bring an exact replica Liberty Bell to the Brown County Courthouse in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Our Liberty Bell Project was a tribute to the innocent lives that were lost in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
We offer our experience and services to you and your community if you would like to order an exact replica Liberty Bell. The bell will be made at the same company that made the original Liberty Bell. We will provide all services needed to get the bell to your city.
The price for the Liberty Bell, shipping, customs fees and services is approximately $50,000. Your organization would be responsible for raising the funds, the bell display frame/structure, and any other local service or material expenses. We will assist you in planning your project. $25,000 is initially needed to order the bell. The remaining $25,000 is payable after the bell arrives in your city.
A Liberty Bell For Green Bay and Brown County
In support of the Liberty Bell Project, on December 6, 2001 Mayor Paul Jadin and Brown County Executive Nancy Nusbaum proclaimed 2002 as “The Year of Liberty” in our area.
At that press conference, we announced the beginning of a fund-raising campaign to purchase a full size Liberty Bell (2080 lb. replica) to be given as a gift to Green Bay and Brown County. On May 17, 2002 the Liberty Bell replica arrived.
The purpose of the Liberty Bell Project is to:
- Honor the innocent lives that were lost in the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001.
- Honor the Heroes of Liberty who sacrificed so that others could enjoy the “Blessings of Liberty.”
- Reinforce the national unity, American spirit, and community service awakened in our country.
- Promote the study of American history and liberty.
The bell was cast at the Whitechapel Bell Foundry of London, England. This 500 year-old company made the original Liberty Bell 250 years ago. Thousands of pennies from area school children were melted into the bell. The replica bell toured several area schools and was in local parades and downtown events. Area scouts moved the bell to the Brown County Courthouse grounds on September 1, 2002. This date marked the 250th anniversary of the arrival of the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia. Permanent display on the north side of the Brown County Courthouse, along with a memorial-dedication ceremony, occurred on September 11, 2002.
To encourage the study of American history and liberty, we conducted a “Liberty” essay and poetry contest for area students. Over 200 students participated, representing 16 area schools. A time capsule containing contest entries is inserted in the base of the bell display.
Our efforts met with success because of broad community involvement. Foundations, businesses, Veterans associations, and many every day citizens supported this project.
At our press conference on December 6, 2001 we stated that the dark cloud of September 11, 2001 may fade from our memories some day, but the silver lining of our best behaviors should be preserved. The heart of the Liberty Bell project is to symbolically lend permanence to the American values of Life, Liberty, National Unity, Community Service, and Good Moral Character.