The Liberty Bell History

Liberty Bell History

At a meeting of the Assembly of the Province of Pennsylvania on or about November 1st, 1751, the Superintendents (Isaac Norris, Thomas Leech and Edward Warner), were instructed to procure a bell of about 2,000 lbs. weight from England. This instruction laid down the prophetic inscription that was to be placed on the bell and stipulated that it should be delivered before the scaffolding around the building in which it was to be hung, was struck at the end of the following summer. Thomas Lester of this Foundry and in these same premises was the Founder chosen, and in September 1752, the bell is recorded as having come ashore in good order. A report dated March 1753 states that after hanging, it became cracked at the first stroke. They endeavoured to return it to England by the same ship, but the Master of the vessel was unable to take it on board. Thereupon, two “ingenious” workmen, Pass and Stow, both of Philadelphia, undertook to recast it. On breaking up Lester’s bell, they pronounced it too brittle and modified the alloy by adding 1½ oz. of copper to every 1 lb. of Lester’s bell.

They did not appreciate that bell metal is brittle, and relies on this to a great extent for its freedom of tone. They made a new casting which was not successful and, in their second recasting – having learnt the lesson – they restored the correct balance of metal and this is the bell that now hangs in the Liberty Bell Center, directly across from an earlier home, Independence Hall.

Later in 1753 some further dissatisfaction was expressed and negotiations were made with Thomas Lester to recast it for a charge of 2d. per lb. This, however, never materialised and Pass and Stow’s second recasting was finally hung in the State House Steeple.

With the threat of British occupation of Philadelphia in 1777, the State House Bell (Liberty Bell) and other bells were hastily removed from the City to prevent their falling into British hands and being made into cannon. Taken to Allentown, the bell was hidden in the Zion Reform Church for almost a year and was returned to Philadelphia in the summer of 1778 upon the withdrawal of the British.

There are conflicting stories as to the causes of the present bell becoming cracked:

One is that it cracked in 1835 while being tolled on the death of Chief Justice John Marshall of Virginia, and that in 1846 an attempt was made to restore the bell’s tone by supporting the sides of the fracture, but this was to no avail. The story goes that it was tolled for the last time for Washington’s birthday for, by then, the cracks had begun to spread.

Another story which gives more detail appeared in the Reading Eagle in 1911 and was told to the reporter by Emmanuel Joseph Rauch who was then about 86 years of age. He told how, when he was 10 years old in 1835, he was one day passing State House Square when the Steeple Keeper – whose name was Downing – called after him and several other boys, inviting them to ring the bell in honour of Washington’s birthday. Downing tied a rope to the clapper of the bell and, thrusting the end of the rope into the hands of the eager boys, instructed them to pull with all their might. After 10 or 12 strokes, there was a change in the tone of the bell which Downing noticed as well and, after climbing into the steeple, found a crack 12″ to 15″ long, whereupon the boys were told to run along home.

Which of these two stories is true we may never know, but the fact remains that the principal crack is in line with the swing of the clapper and it is an established fact that many bells have been cracked by the improper operation of the clapper in this way.

Good bell metal is extremely brittle: metal up to 1″ in thickness can be broken in the palm of the hand by a sharp tap with a 2 lb. hammer. If a bell is struck and not allowed to ring freely, because either the clapper or some part of the frame or fittings are in contact with the bell, then a crack can very easily develop.

The Whitechapel Foundry’s connection with the Liberty Bell was reestablished in 1976, the year of the US Bicentennial. First, there was a group of about thirty or so ‘demonstrators’ from the Procrastinators Society of America who mounted a mock protest over the bell’s defects and who marched up and down outside the Foundry with placards proclaiming WE GOT A LEMON and WHAT ABOUT THE WARRANTY?. We told them we would be happy to replace the bell – as long as it was returned to us in its original packaging. Concurrently (ie. from about 1968 to 1976) we also produced around fifteen full-size, twenty four hundred one-fifth size, and two hundred one-ninth size replicas of the bell for the Boston-based Limited Editions Collectors Society of America Inc. Finally, and most pleasingly, Whitechapel was also commissioned to cast the 12,446lb Bicentennial Bell that year, which now resides in Philadelphia with its illustrious predecessor and which bears the inscription:

4 JULY 1976
In 2001, the 250th anniversary of the casting of the original, Whitechapel was commissioned to cast a replica of the Liberty Bell. The connection continues.

Liberty Bell History

Liberty Bell

Liberty Bell Center – National Park Service, Philadelphia

The 1997 master plan of Independence Mall envisioned the making of a great American place in the heart of Philadelphia historic district. In keeping with this spirit, the program of a new building on the mall to house the Liberty Bell demanded a distinctly American building, seamlessly connected to this place, to the city and to the collective memory of events that took place here.Opened in October 2003, the $11 million Liberty Bell Center provides a larger home for the bell, and an exciting and authentic visitor experience. Accessible by day and illuminated at night, the 12,000 square foot structure honors the bells significance as the nations most cherished icon of freedom. The buildings architecture and its comprehensive exhibits respond to the history-laden site, context and circumstance, giving form to the clients mission to bring the story of the bell and its importance in U.S. history to larger and more diverse audiences.

While providing an urban edge along Sixth Street to the west and a cornerstone to the mall, the building offers a sylvan pavilion for park visitors. Contemporary, and yet resonating with the eighteenth and nineteenth-century architectural traditions of the city, the brick, stone and glass building is an open, humanly scaled place of gathering and community. The story of the bell and the visitors personal encounter with this transcendent object are enveloped in three architectural elements: a covered outdoor interpretive area, an elongated rectilinear exhibit hall and a tapered cubic volume housing the bell chamber.

Glass walls and a metal-clad wood roof join a brick and stone-paved arborway and sun-shading trellises to form the buildings enclosure. The visitors experience unfolds along an undulating granite wall that is reminiscent of Jefferson’s serpentine wall. The bells making, its historical significance, and its universal meaning are presented through a series of interactive and informative exhibits. There are places for foreign visitors to hear the story of the bell in their native languages and for large groups to assemble for special presentations.

The inclined floor plane of the exhibit area conforms to the contour of the exterior landscape visible through generous windows opening onto the mall. The visitors path rises gently to a plateau where the glass and marble chamber houses the bell. Here it is seen against the compelling backdrop of nearby eighteenth-century Independence Hall and its tower where the bell once hung. In the chambers expansive architectural volume a great window reinforces the intimate relationship of hall and bell, making the bells importance explicit.

On the exterior, a delicately detailed scrim of sunlight-controlling vanes shelters the bell chambers glass vitrine enclosure. The extended roof plane visors the enclosure, shielding the bell from the south sun. Cupped walls of white marble embrace the bell, creating an intimate environment for both individuals and larger audiences to view the bell and reflect on its meaning. Place, architecture and icon join to make a moving and memorable experience. Visitors exit the bell chamber along the final segment of the serpentine wall, emerging near the southwest corner of the mall, well positioned to continue their visit to the parkís other important sites and the surrounding historic city.


2010 Honor Award for Building Design
United States Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Designing the Parks Awards
2006 Tucker Award for Design
Building Stone Institute
2005 Honor Award for Design
AIA Pennsylvania
2004 Honor Award
AIA Philadelphia
2004 Golden Trowel Award
International Masonry Association, Mid-Atlantic Section
2004 Excellence in Craftsmanship Award
General Building Contractors Association of Philadelphia
2000 Honor Award for Design
AIA Philadelphia ( source: Liberty bell Center)

Liberty Bell Philadelphia: From Obscurity to Icon

Liberty Bell Philadelphia

Residents of Philadelphia in 1776 would not have been able to direct a visitor to the “Liberty Bell.” It was there–ringing out from the tower of the Pennsylvania State House–but it had yet to be transformed into an international symbol of liberty. By the time the grandchildren of those early Philadelphians were grandparents themselves, however, they could easily have directed a visitor to the site of the famous Liberty Bell. It was still housed at the old State House, but by then the building had been renamed Independence Hall.

Shaped by national and world events, the power of the 2,000-pound Liberty Bell’s message grows in strength: a wreath is laid beneath the bell to commemorate the Thirteenth Amendment, which made slavery illegal in the United States; a crowd gathers outside the Liberty Bell Pavilion for a candlelight vigil to exercise their First Amendment right to disagree with their government; and tourists from all over the world come to see this international symbol of freedom.

Liberty Bell Philadelphia

Liberty Bell

Where is the Liberty Bell Located?

Where is the Liberty Bell Located

Visiting The Liberty Bell Center is located on Market Street between 5th and 6th Streets. The building is open year round, though hours vary by season. The Liberty Bell Center offers a video presentation and exhibits about the Liberty Bell, focusing on its origins and its modern day role as an international icon of freedom. Taped presentations about the history of the Liberty Bell are offered in a dozen languages for the convenience of foreign visitors. The Liberty Bell itself is displayed in a magnificent glass chamber with Independence Hall in the background.

The Bell’s Message

The Liberty Bell’s inscription conveys a message of liberty which goes beyond the words themselves. Since the bell was made, the words of the inscription have meant different things to different people. When William Penn created Pennsylvania’s government he allowed citizens to take part in making laws and gave them the right to choose the religion they wanted. The colonists were proud of the freedom that Penn gave them. In 1751, the Speaker of the Pennsylvania Assembly ordered a new bell for the State House. He asked that a Bible verse to be placed on the bell – “Proclaim LIBERTY throughout all the Land unto all the inhabitants thereof” (Leviticus 25:10). As the official bell of the Pennsylvania State House (today called Independence Hall) it rang many times for public announcements.

The old State House bell was first called the “Liberty Bell” by a group trying to outlaw slavery. These abolitionists remembered the words on the bell and, in the 1830s, adopted it as a symbol of their cause.

Beginning in the late 1800s, the Liberty Bell traveled around the country to expositions and fairs to help heal the divisions of the Civil War. It reminded Americans of their earlier days when they fought and worked together for independence.

In 1915, the bell made its last trip and came home to Philadelphia, where it now silently reminds us of the power of liberty. For more than 200 years people from around the world have felt the bell’s message. No one can see liberty, but people have used the Liberty Bell to represent this important idea.

Bell Facts, How It Cracked

A bell for the Pennsylvania State House was cast in London, England, however, it cracked soon after it arrived in Philadelphia. Local craftsmen John Pass and John Stow cast a new bell in 1753, using metal from the English bell. Their names appear on the front of the bell, along with the city and the date. By 1846 a thin crack began to affect the sound of the bell. The bell was repaired in 1846 and rang for a George Washington birthday celebration, but the bell cracked again and has not been rung since. No one knows why the bell cracked either time.

The bell weighs about 2000 pounds. It is made of 70% copper, 25% tin, and small amounts of lead, zinc, arsenic, gold, and silver. It hangs from what is believed to be its original yoke, made from American elm, also known as slippery elm.

Where is the Liberty Bell Located

Liberty Bell

The Liberty Bell

The Liberty Bell

The Liberty Bell is one of the most important symbols of the America’s struggle for independence at the end of the 18th century. The famously cracked bell occupies a separate pavilion at the Independence Mall in Philadelphia and can be visited free of charge.

The bell was ordered in 1751 by the Pennsylvania Assembly, the colonial government, reportedly to commemorate the 50 year anniversary of William Penn’s 1701 Charter of Privileges. The bell was cast by the Whitechapel Bell Foundry in London and arrived in Philadelphia in September 1752.


Six months later, in March 1753, the bell was hung in the steeple of the Pennsylvania State House, now the Independence Hall. The bell cracked the first time it rang. It was recast by two foundry workers in Philadelphia who – in an effort to make the bell less brittle – added additional copper. The bell sounded awful due to the extra copper, so they recast it again. The final bell was put in place in June 1753.

The bell was rung to announce all sorts of events. One of the historically most important events was on July 8, 1776 when the bell summoned the citizens to attend the reading of the Declaration of Independence.

Another Crack

A crack in the bell started to appear again somewhere in the first half of the 19th century but was repaired. The current crack dates from 1846 when the bell rang in honor of the birthday of George Washington. In 1852 the bell was taken down from the steeple and put on display in the Declaration Chamber in the Independence Hall.

Liberty Bell Center

In 2003 the bell moved to the Liberty Bell Center, a modern pavilion at the Independence National Historical Park. The bell is displayed in a glass room with the Independence Hall in the background. source: The Liberty Bell

The Liberty Bell

Liberty Bell

Liberty Bell Facts

Liberty Bell Facts

Location: Liberty Bell Center, Market Street & 6th, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Bell Originally Cast: Whitechapel Foundry 1752

Bell recast: Pass & Stow Philadelphia 1753 and again later that year

Bell owned by: The City of Philadelphia (not the Park Service)

Center opened: October, 2003

Center architect: Bernard J. Cywinski of Bohlin, Cywinski, Jackson

Exhibit designer: UJMN Architects + Designers (Ueland Junker McCauley Nicholson LLC)

Tourism information: Daily 9am-5pm with extended hours July and August. The bell is visible 24 hours a day. 215-597-8974

Strike note: E-flat

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 Bell actually suffered a series of hairline cracks. The area around the crack was expanded in hopes of extending the useful life of the Bell. In the picture at right, note the hairline crack that finally rendered the bell unusable extending upward.

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)

Detailed Analysis of the Bell’s Composition

The Franklin Institute took drillings from the Liberty Bell in 1960. The International Nickel Company analyzed the content and in 1975, scientists from Winterthur Museum and the DuPont Company used an X-Ray Florescence Analyzer to describe the metallic content at ten points around the rim of the Bell. These readings vary greatly. The table here shows the ranges. This table is from “The Story of the Liberty Bell” by David Kimball.

Liberty Bell Facts

Liberty Bell