Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Along with the Statue of Liberty, the Liberty Bell is perhaps the most prominent symbol of American liberty, and probably the most prominent symbol associated with early American history and the battle for American independence and freedom.
Its most famous ringing, on July 8, 1776, summoned citizens for the reading of the Declaration of Independence by the Second Continental Congress. It previously had been rung to announce the opening of the First Continental Congress in 1774 and the Battle of Lexington and Concord in 1775.
The bell was not officially called the Liberty Bell until 1837, when it became a symbol of the abolitionist movement because of its cast inscription from Leviticus 25:10: "Proclaim Liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof."
The bell is 70 percent copper, 25 percent tin, and contains other trace metals. It has a 12-foot circumference. It originally weighed 2080 lbs., but according to the city of Philadelphia, it currently weighs around 2055 lbs, due to the fact that at least 25 lbs. have been maliciously chiseled off the inside lip.
The bell received its first crack in March 1753, the first time it was rung. It was originally cast in 1752 by the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, for use in the Pennsylvania State House (now Independence Hall). The bell had been ordered the previous year by the Pennsylvania Assembly, and the inscription from Leviticus was possibly intended to mark the 50th anniversary of William Penn's Charter of Privileges of 1701. After its initial cracking, the bell was recast by John Pass and John Stow of Philadelphia, whose surnames also appear inscribed on the bell. When the tone of the recast bell proved unsatisfactory, Pass and Stow recast the bell again, and this third bell was hung in the steeple of the State House in June 1753. The bell was used to summon members of the Assembly to meetings. It remained in the tower through the start of the American Revolutionary War, when the Second Continental Congress used the building for its deliberations in 1775-76.
In October 1777, however, as the Revolutionary War intensified and the British attempted to seize Philadelphia, the Liberty Bell was moved north, to the Pennsylvania village of Northamptontown (now known as Allentown). In Allentown, the bell was hidden under the floor of Old Zion Reformed Church, where it remained until the British evacuated Philadelphia in 1778, when it was again returned to Philadelphia.
Today, in the basement of this center city Allentown church, the only official replica of the bell is on display, surrounded by the flags of the original thirteen colonies. The location is open to tourists.
The bell was repaired in February 1846. The method of repair, known as stop drilling, required drilling along the hairline crack so that the sides of the fracture would not reverberate. When the bell was rung that month in honor of George Washington's birthday, the crack extended from the top of the repaired crack to the crown of the bell, rendering the bell unusable.
From the 1880s through the early decades of the 20th century, the Liberty Bell traveled to numerous cities and was displayed at expositions and world's fairs. For many years, the bell was housed in the stairwell of Independence Hall where visitors could view it while touring the historic building. On January 1, 1976, the bell was transported from Independence Hall to a glass pavilion located one block north, in anticipation of increased visitation during the bicentennial year of American independence, but the unadorned pavilion proved unpopular with many.
On April 1, 1996, the fast food restaurant chain Taco Bell took out a full-page advertisement in The New York Times announcing that they had purchased the bell to "reduce the country's debt" and renamed it to "the Taco Liberty Bell." Thousands of people who did not immediately get the April Fool's Day hoax protested.
On April 6, 2001, the bell was struck several times with a hammer by Mitchell Guilliatt, a self-described wanderer from Nebraska. According to witness testimony, he hit the bell four or five times while saying "God lives." After repairs, there was no visible damage to the bell.
In October 2003, the bell was moved a short distance to the southwest to a new pavilion, the Liberty Bell Center. There was some controversy about the site chosen for the new structure, which was just to the south of the site of where George Washington had lived in the 1790s. After the initial planning, the building's site was found to be adjacent to the quarters for the slaves owned by Washington. The decision over how to acknowledge this fact in the display has led to some debate.
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