The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Bell, Liberty

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BELL, Liberty, the bell in Independence Hall, Philadelphia, that was rung to announce the adoption of the Declaration of Independence by the Continental Congress. The bell was cast in London by Robert Charles and cost about $500. The specifications provided that it was to be made by the best workmen, to be examined carefully before being shipped and to contain, in well-shaped letters around it, the inscription: “By order of the Province of Pennsylvania, for the State House in the City of Philadelphia, 1752.” An order was given to place underneath this the prophetic words from Leviticus xxv 10: “Proclaim liberty throughout the land and to all the inhabitants thereof.” The reason for the selection of this text has been s subject of much conjecture, but the true reason is apparent when the full text is read. It is as follows: “And ye shall hallow the 50th year and proclaim liberty throughout the land and to all the inhabitants thereof.” In selecting the text the Quakers had in memory the arrival of William Fenn and their forefathers more than half a century before. In August 17S2, the bell arrived, but though in apparent good order, it was cracked by a stroke of the clapper while being tested. It could not be sent back as the captain of the vessel who had brought it over could not take it on board. Two skilful men undertook to recast the bell, a bell being provided which pleased very much. But it was found to be defective also. The original bell was considered too high in tone, and in an attempt to correct this fault, too much copper was added. There were a great many witticisms on account of the sound failure, and ingenious workmen undertook to recast the bell, which they successfully did, and it was placed in condition in June 1753. On Monday, 8 July (not the 4th), at noon, true to its motto, it rang out the memorable message of “Liberty throughout the land and to all the inhabitants thereof.” For years the bell continued to be rung on every festival and anniversary, until it eventually cracked 8 July 1835, while being tolled in memory of Chief Justice Marshall An ineffectual attempt was made to cause it to continue serviceable by enlarging the cause of its dissonance and clipping the edges. it was removed from its position in the tower to a lower story, and only used on occasions of public sorrow. Subsequently, it was placed on the original timbers in the vestibule of Independence Hall, and in 1873 was suspended in a prominent position immediately beneath where a larger bell, presented to the city in 1866, now proclaims the passing hours. In 1893 it was taken to Chicago and placed on exhibition at the World's Columbian Exposition. In 1915 it was taken to the Panama-Pacific Exposition at San Francisco and placed on exhibition.