The Crack in the Liberty Bell

Liberty Bell

     The Pennsylvania Assembly ordered what is now called the Liberty Bell in 1751 to commemorate the 50-year anniversary of William Penn’s 1701 Charter of Privileges, Pennsylvania’s original Constitution.  On July 8, 1776, the Liberty Bell rang out from the tower of the Pennsylvania State House (now Independence Hall) summoning the citizens of Philadelphia to hear the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence by Colonel John Nixon.

     Hair-line cracks which began to appear on the Liberty Bell almost immediately were bored out to prevent expansion. Apparently the addition of the cheaper metals of tin and pewter to the bell during repair were part of the problem.  

     The final expansion of the crack which rendered the Bell unringable was on Washington’s Birthday in 1846.  According to the Philadelphia Public Ledger on February 26, 1846:  “The old Independence Bell rang its last clear note on Monday last in honor of the birthday of Washington and now hangs in the great city steeple irreparably cracked and dumb. It had been cracked before but was set in order of that day by having the edges of the fracture filed so as not to vibrate against each other … It gave out clear notes and loud, and appeared to be in excellent condition until noon, when it received a sort of compound fracture in a zig-zag direction through one of its sides which put it completely out of tune and left it a mere wreck of what it was.”

     Before it was damaged the Liberty Bell did “Proclaim LIBERTY throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof” as it had been constructed to do.  The Liberty Bell was moved to the Liberty Bell Center in 2003.

Tomorrow:  Deseret:  the State that Never Was   Rita Bay

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