In the mid-1700’s the American Colonies were under the control of the British Empire. The colonists were kept under the heavy hand of the British government and were subjected to heavy taxation. This control led to the call for independence from the colonists, and eventually the Revolutionary War. During this call for freedom, the people adopted several iconic symbols of the new country. One of the early symbols of freedom and patriotism for the young country was the Liberty Bell.
The idea for creating the Liberty Bell goes back to 1701, when William Penn signed the Charter of Privileges. To commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the signing, a bell was commissioned by the Pennsylvania Assembly that would be housed in the Pennsylvania State House.
In 1752, the bell was cast in England and shipped to the colonies. Shortly after its arrival a crack appeared in the bell. When noticed, the bell was re-cast using the original bell but it too developed a crack. A third bell was cast by John Pass and John Stowe, and this bell was completed without any problems and in June 1753. When the final bell was finished it was inscribed as follows:
"Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof - Lev. XXV, v. x. By order of the Assembly of the Province of Pensylvania for the State House in Philada.” In addition the names of John Pass and John Stowe appeared on the bell.
The bell would remain in the State House for several years and was only rung on special occasions. It would ring for special meetings of the assembly, when the Sugar Act was repealed, and when other special needs arose. The bell would ring, not only to announce events in Pennsylvania, but also events that occurred elsewhere in the colonies, such as being rung to announce the Battles of Concord and Lexington, which began the revolution. However, the most famous event in which it was rung was in July 1776, when the Declaration of Independence was signed.
However, due to the ongoing war the fate of the bell was in jeopardy. In 1777, the British were on the march to Philadelphia and it was feared that any bells that were in the City would be confiscated and melted down to make cannon balls for the British, including the Liberty Bell. Because of the concern, all bells in Philadelphia were ordered to be taken down and shipped out to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and later to Allentown, Pennsylvania. It remained in Allentown until the British occupation of Philadelphia ended in 1778, when it was returned to the State House.
After the Revolutionary War, the bell remained at the State House and once again only rang on special occasions. The in 1846, the bell sustained its final crack when it was rung for George Washington’s Birthday. The crack was so long that the bell was not able to be used from that point forward. The bell was then taken down from the steeple of the State House and moved to a permanent location at the Independence Hall.
The Liberty Bell has been a national treasure and is available for viewing to all people. The bell currently resides in the Liberty Bell Center in Philadelphia, where it is on permanent display. To learn more about the use and history of the Liberty Bell, we have gathered resources for people to review: