Sunday, September 30, 2007

Philadelphia ---- Liberty Bell

As a bell, the Liberty Bell was a washout from the word go. It was ordered from Whitechapel Foundry in London, for the steeple of the Pennsylvania State House, now Independence Hall, in Philadelphia. While being hung for the first time in March of 1753, the bell developed a crack and was sent to two local foundry workers to be melted and recast. The tone of the recast bell did not please so it was recast once more. Since no one liked the sound of this one either, a new bell was ordered from Whitechapel. On arrival it too was not acceptable and the recast bell was left in place while the new one was used for the clock in the cupola.

But the bell served its purpose, being rung to call the Assembly together, to summon the people for various announcements and events and it tolled often. On July 8th 1776, supposedly it rang out to summon the citizens for the reading of the Declaration of Independence. However this story is doubted by historians since the steeple was in very bad condition at the time. Just before the British occupied Philadelphia in October 1777, all bells were removed from the city and hidden for it was feared they would be melted down and turned into cannon. The Liberty Bell was hidden in the Zion Reformed Church in Allentown, but it was returned to Philadelphia and put into storage, until rehung in a newly built steeple in 1785.

But what about the crack you ask? No one is entirely sure when it began to develop but by 1846 the bell was not ringable, despite all efforts to repair it. However, shortly before, in 1837, the bell had been adopted by abolitionists as a symbol for the movement, when it began to be used by the New York Anti-Slavery Society. In fact they gave it its name, Liberty Bell, since previously it had been called simply the State House Bell and thus began its transformation into a symbol of freedom, adopted by many different causes over the years. After the 1880s the bell made many journeys from city to city throughout the country, in an effort to unite it and heal rifts. One such journey was made after the Civil War, however it has remained in Philadelphia since 1915.

Today it resides in the Liberty Bell Center, a very modern building, opened in October 2003. This Center is across from Independence Hall as part of the Independence National Historical Park and the bell is cunningly placed so that you can see Independence Hall in the background and such that it is visible to all, even when the Center is closed. The Center also has exhibits showing the bell's connection to various causes and many examples of items decorated with the bell since it has been very popular for that purpose over the years.

A showcase of objects decorated with the Bell

Perhaps you'd care for some Liberty Bell bookends, complete with cracks

For those who are interested here are some statistics, which you can pass right on by if you are not:

Composition: 70% copper, 25% tin, small amounts of lead, zinc, arsenic, gold and silver

Size of Crack: The crack is approximately 1/2 inch wide and 24.5 inches long.

The strike note of the Bell is E-flat

Bell Stats

  • circumference around the lip: 12 ft.
  • circumference around the crown: 7 ft. 6 in.
  • lip to crown: 3 ft.
  • height over the crown: 2 ft. 3 in.
  • thickness at lip: 3 in.
  • thickness at crown: 1-1/4 in.
  • weight (originally): 2080 lbs.
  • length of clapper: 3 ft. 2 in.
  • weight of clapper: 44-1/2 lbs.
  • weight of yoke: 200 lbs.
  • Length of visible hairline fracture: approx. 2' 4" (this and next measurement made by Park curator Bob Giannini in 1993)
  • Length of drilled crack: approx. 2' 1/2"
  • yoke wood: American Elm (a.k.a. slippery elm)

A replica of the Liberty Bell, forged in 1915, was used to promote women's suffrage. It traveled the country with its clapper chained to its side, silent until women won the right to vote. On September 25, 1920, it was brought to Independence Hall and rung in ceremonies celebrating the ratification of the 19th amendment.
The original Liberty Bell announced the creation of democracy; the Women's Liberty Bell will announce the completion of democracy.

– Katherine Ruschenberger, suffragist, New York Times, March 31, 1915.

Its life as a working bell may have been short lived but the Liberty Bell has endured as a symbol of freedom and embraced by everyone looking to advance that cause. I don't believe that will change anytime soon since freedom is still under attack in many places and for many people.

Apologies once more for the spacing. I think I will have to give up on wraparound.


Moof said...

JMB, wraparound text works when it fits into the provided space. You'll see that the word that first falls below would not have fit between the photo and the edge of the posting area.

The way to fix that next time is to size your photo down to make the words fit.

If you want to know how to do that, let me know, and I'll tell you by email, okies? :o)

By the way ... great post!!!

Josie said...

JMB, that's so interesting. That is something else I have always wanted to see is the Liberty Bell. Would it be the same without the crack? It certainly wouldn't be as famous, or represent so much, would it? It's almost as if the crack represents more than the bell itself. Some things are just meant to be.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Fascinating, jmb. I always thought it was called the "Liberty Bell" because of the Declaration of Independence. And I had never heard of the womwn's bell. I could do with bookends like that!

Liz said...

Fascinating post - as always - jmb.

I'd never really thought about or realised there was an actual Liberty Bell.

Carver said...

I know that I've said this before but you are so good at these write ups and they are very interesting. I know that I've read some of the history of the Liberty Bell but I fear I'm getting to that point where I'm forgetting more than I'm retaining. However, oddly, I know I will always remember, now that I've read it, that the strike note of the bell is E flat. I'm pretty sure that I have never read that before. Take care, Carver

Janice Thomson said...

How fascinating Jmb. It just goes to show that it's not perfection alone that holds value.
I knew this was a huge bell but had no idea it weighed in at over a ton!
I too was surprised there was a woman's bell. Great post!

Ellee said...

What a fantastic post. I do know of someone who repairs these bells in Cambridgeshire. He also makes honey and sometimes I stop off to buy a jar and he has a yard full of these old bells. He looks like one of his bees too. Liberty Bell is such a lovely name too.

Shades said...

I always think of Monty Python's Flying Circus- the theme tune is called "Liberty Bell".

Big Ben has a (repaired) crack in it as well. That Whitechapel Foundry must have a quality assurance problem...

Love Bears All Things said...

We recently had a quiz about the liberty bell at one of our Homemaker meetings. I'm glad you're enjoying yourself. I have been to Philadelphia twice. One to the Museum to see a hat exhibit and once to catch a plane. I'd love to visit the city as you are doing. Keep the photos and commentary coming.
Mama Bear

Voyager said...

I especially like the part about the woman's libert bell.

Lord Higham-Johnson said...

There's a giant cracked bell in Moscow and it gets enormous numbers of visitors. Interesting, yes?

Anonymous said...

I watched a programme about bell-making the other day - its actually very hard so don't blame the poor workers of London too much.


jmb said...

Hi Moof,
I know about word fit but the problem is that in the preview it looks fine and that's all you can see until you publish, when you find that it's not so fine after all. I like the photo to be as large as I can have it.

Hi Josie,
It sounds as if there are many cracked bells around from my commenters. I think the adoption of the bell for causes made it famous.

Well I thought so too but I found all this out on my little tour of the Centre which was very interesting.

Hi Liz
I only found out about it when I went to Philadelphia, well the details anyway.

Hi Carver,
Not too pedantic? I worry a bit about that. I'm sure you've heard all this stuff before many times.

Hi Janice,
Lots of interesting things I learned at the Bell centre. I thought it was interesting how this ordinary bell got to be so significant to Americans and others.

Hi Ellee,
Mutley says below that making bells and repairing them is very difficult work so I guess your bee man is very skilled.

Hi Shades,
I didn't know Big Ben is cracked too. But you can still ring it. I suppose it must be a big bell too. I'll have to google it.

Hi Love Bears,
Did you know the answers to the quiz? Maybe I would now have been there. Philly was great and I have couple of posts still to do.

Hi Voyager,
The women's bell is interesting. We forget that we haven't had the vote for very long at all, we women.

Hi James,
So does the crack make it more interesting or was it already interesting?

Hi Mutley,
I'm sure bell making is difficult to get just so, especially today since they don't make many any more. But the bell casters in Philadelphia couldn't seem to do any better than the Londoners.

Thank you all for visiting and commenting

Sienna said...

This is so incredible, I never knew all the history behind the bell, and that they weren't so happy with it and recasted!

I didn't realise how big it was either...just amazing...I love the renaming of it: Liberty Bell...

You still have your Aussie accent! That is incredible, ha, you realise I think we speak normal and the rest of the world has accents...delightful accents, but I'm sure we speak it as the way language was meant to be spoken! :) :-) (Butchered)


Lee said...

It'd probably be better and easier to install a door knocker instead! ;)

jmb said...

Hi Pam
It's a good story about the Bell isn't it Pam? Well I found it very interesting.
Yep still got my accent. Those vowels are too ingrained I guess.

Hi Lee,
These dang bells are too much trouble it seems. Very difficult to get just right.