lib-bellThe Liberty Bell is a familiar symbol of freedom in the United States. It was ordered by the Pennsylvania Assembly in 1751 to commemorate the 50-year anniversary of William Penn's 1701 Charter of Privileges; it was to be installed in 1752 in the Pennsylvania State House, now known as Independence Hall. The bell was cast in London, England and then shipped to Pennsylvania.

Soon after it arrived, the English bell cracked. In 1753, a new bell was cast from the metal of the English bell by local craftsmen John Pass and John Stow. Their names and the year in Roman numerals, MDCCLIII, are marked on the bell. It also has a Bible verse written on it: “Proclaim LIBERTY throughout all the Land unto all the inhabitants thereof” (Leviticus 25:10).

On June 7, 1753, the bell was hung in the tower of Independence Hall. In 1777, during the American Revolution, British troops captured Philadelphia. For safekeeping, the bell was moved to Zion's Reformed Church in Allentown, PA. It was returned to Philadelphia in 1778.

In the early 1800s, people who wanted to outlaw slavery called it the “Liberty Bell” and used it as a symbol for their campaign.

In 1846, another crack began to develop in the bell, and it was repaired. It rang for George Washington’s birthday on February 23, 1846, but then it cracked again. In order to repair the bell, a slot was carved along the length of the crack that prevented the two sides of the bell from vibrating against each other. Two rivets were inserted in this slot to control the vibration of the two sides and restore the bell's tonal quality.

The bell traveled around the country after the Civil War (1861-1865) but since 1915 it has remained in Philadelphia. Today, the Liberty Bell is on permanent display in a visitor center next to Independence Hall.

Liberty Bell facts and figures:

  • The bell is an alloy, or a mix of metals; it is made of 70% copper, 25% tin, and also has zinc, lead, arsenic, silver, and even gold.
  • It is very heavy and weighs about 2000 pounds, or 1 ton.
  • The bell is suspended on what is believed to be its original yoke of American elm wood.

To learn more, see the Liberty Bell Center site.