Liberty Bell Tolls

On July 8, 1776, a bell pealed from the tower of the Pennsylvania state house in Philadelphia, summoning citizens to the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence. Four days earlier, the historic document had been adopted by delegates to the Continental Congress, but the bell did not ring to announce the issuing of the document until the Declaration of Independence returned from the printer on July 8. The “Liberty Bell” weighed 2,000 pounds and was made of copper and tin. The name of the bell was coined in an 1839 poem in an abolitionist pamphlet.

As British troops advanced toward Philadelphia in the fall of 1777, the bell was removed from the city and hidden in Allentown to save it from being melted down by the British to make cannons. After the British defeat in 1781, the bell was returned to Philadelphia, which served as the nation’s capital from 1790 to 1800. In addition to marking important events, the bell rang annually to celebrate George Washington’s birthday on February 22 and Independence Day on July 4.

Historians have debated when the Liberty Bell first cracked. Most believe the bell suffered a major break while ringing for the funeral of U.S. chief justice John Marshall in 1835. In 1846 the crack expanded to its present size while ringing for Washington’s birthday. Since then the bell is only tapped to celebrate important events.

In 1976, the Liberty Bell moved to a new pavilion about 100 yards from Independence Hall in preparation for America’s bicentennial celebrations. It remains there today and is visited by more than one million people each year.

Source: Liberty Bell Tolls
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