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Liberty Bell Timeline
Important dates in the history of The Liberty Bell

1752

The Pennsylvania Assembly orders a 2,000-pound bell from the Whitechapel Foundry in England to place in its new State House (now Independence Hall) steeple. They request that the bell have the inscription “Proclaim Liberty throughout all the Land unto all the Inhabitants thereof.”

Early 1753

The bell created by Whitechapel Foundry arrives in Philadelphia. Because of its brittleness, it cracks when it is first rung. The bell is recast in Philadelphia by Pass and Stow, a local maker of pots and pans. They add one and a half ounces of copper per pound of the original bell. The inscription on the bell remains the same.

April 1753

The newly recast Pass and Stow Bell is rung. Made with too much copper, the bell does not resonate properly. Pass and Stow recast the bell again.

June 11, 1753

The Pass and Stow bell, still bearing the original inscription and weighing 2,080 pounds, is raised into the State House steeple. The Assemblymen dislike the sound of the bell and order another bell from the Whitechapel Foundry.

1754

The new Whitechapel bell arrives from England. The assemblymen do not like its sound any better than the Pass and Stow bell already in the steeple. The men decide to place the new Whitechapel bell in the attic of the State House to chime the hours on the west wall clock. The Pass and Stow bell, with its “Proclaim Liberty…” inscription remains in the steeple and calls the Assembly to meet.

1760’s

The original Pass and Stow Bell calls assemblies to meetings to debate the Sugar, Stamp and Townshend Acts and other Parliamentary actions, which trigger revolution.

July 8, 1776

Historians once assumed that the State House bell was rung in celebration after the Declaration of Independence was read aloud for the first time in the State House yard on July 8. It is probable, however, that the deteriorated steeple was in such poor condition that ringing the bell was impossible. No city bells rang to celebrate Independence on July 4, 1776. On that date, the Second Continental Congress ordered the revised Declaration to be printed and sent to the colonial legislatures, British officials and the American army. Although its text appeared in a few newspapers on July 6, 1776, the document was not read aloud to the Philadelphia public until July 8, 1776.

September 23, 1777

The State House bell is taken from Philadelphia, along with other bells from the city, to Allentown, Pennsylvania, and hidden in Zion High, now Reformed Lutheran Church, which stands today with a historical marker indicating its role in the Liberty Bell’s journey. The colonists removed the bells so the British would not confiscate them.

June 1778

The British leave Philadelphia and the city’s bells return. The Liberty Bell is put back in the steeple while the clock bell is returned to the attic.

1816

The City of Philadelphia buys the State House, along with its bells and its yard for $70,000 in order to prevent the state from dividing the yard into small lots and selling them and the building.

December 1828

A new bell is purchased for the State House steeple. The Pass and Stow “Proclaim Liberty…” bell is lowered to the third floor of the State House tower for storage.

1835

The earliest known reference to the bell as the “Bell of Liberty” is made by abolitionists. These antislavery advocates adopted the Bell as their symbol because of its inscription and the Bell’s association with Independence Hall, where the Declaration had been created.

1837

A guidebook includes a reference to the Bell. The book refers to the “old State House bell,” making it an official tourist attraction. An issue of Liberty, an abolitionist publication from New York, uses a rendition of the Bell as a symbol and stresses the inclusiveness of its inscription.

1838

A pamphlet produced by a Boston abolitionist group includes a poem about the Bell entitled “The Liberty Bell.” By November, the Bell is nationally known as “The Liberty Bell.”

1841-1845

Sometime during this four-year time period the Bell cracks. No records recovered thus far provide an indisputable date for when the crack occurred.

February 1846

The crack is found and repaired using a stop-drilling method. This method removes metal from the two sides of a crack in order to prevent them from rubbing against one another. Rivets are then inserted into the crack to stabilize it. This treatment produces the Bell’s wide vertical crack that can still be seen today.

February 23, 1846

While ringing in observance of George Washington’s birthday, the Bell cracks further, and the repair is deemed unsuccessful. This hairline fracture is not fixable and the Bell cannot be rung again.

January 2, 1849

American writer George Lippard writes an article in the Saturday Courier Magazine that grossly exaggerates the Bell’s role in the writing of the Declaration of Independence. Lippard recounts the story of an aged bellman who waits in the tower of Independence Hall to ring the Bell when the Continental Congress declares independence. This fictional story, however, does much more to publicize the Bell among the public than the facts ever had.

1885

The Bell becomes a symbol of freedom and liberty when it travels on a special railroad car to New Orleans for the World’s Industrial and Cotton Centennial Exposition. The Bell stops in 14 cities along the way.

1895-1915

The Bell travels to Chicago, Atlanta, Charleston, Boston, St. Louis and San Francisco, stopping along the way for thousands of passerbys to see. The tour was intended to show off the Bell to people who presumably would never be able to visit Philadelphia.

February 11, 1915

The Bell is tapped with a mallet and its sound is amplified electronically and used as the inaugural sound that began transcontinental telephone service.

Spring 1915

A replica of the Bell, dubbed the “Justice Bell,” is used by members of the women’s suffrage movement to rally support, first for amending the Pennsylvania Constitution and then the United States Constitution.

1917-1918

The Bell tours Philadelphia during the World War I Liberty Loan drives.

1926

The nation’s Sesqui-Centennial celebration is held in Philadelphia. At the entrance to the exposition grounds is a giant replica of the Liberty Bell.

June 6, 1944

The Bell is tapped with a rubber mallet during a national radio program to symbolize liberty and freedom on the day of the Normandy invasion.

March 12, 1965

Twenty-five civil rights protestors participate in a sit-in around the Bell in Independence Hall. They are attempting to draw attention to the need for the federal government to protect the rights of African Americans in Selma, Alabama.

January 1, 1976

To start the celebration of the bicentennial of America’s independence, the Bell is moved from Independence Hall to the new pavilion built for it on Independence Mall.

1988

The Philadelphia Liberty Medal is created to honor people who have worked to secure liberty and freedom in the world and to commemorate the bicentennial of the United States Constitution. The medal itself bears the image of the Bell and is presented each Fourth of July. It has been awarded to Sandra Day O'Conor, 2003; Colin Powell, 2002; Kofi Annan, 2001; Dr. James Watson/Dr. Francis Crick (joint prize), 2000; Kim Dae Jung, 1999; George J. Mitchell, 1998; CNN International, 1997; King Hussein 1/Shimon Peres (joint prize), 1996; Sadako Ogata, 1995; Václav Havel, 1994; F.W. de Klerk/Nelson Mandela (joint prize), 1993; Thurgood Marshall, 1992; Oscar Arias/Médicins sans Frontières (joint prize), (1991); Jimmy Carter, 1990; and
Lech Walesa, 1989.

April 1, 1996

The fast food chain Taco Bell publishes advertisements in eight newspapers claiming to have purchased the Bell, which they renamed “The Taco Liberty Bell.” The stunt was merely a hoax in honor of April Fool’s Day.

April 6, 2001

Mitchell Guilliatt, a self-described "wanderer" from Nebraska, strikes the Bell with an eight-pound hammer several times while proclaiming religious statements. He is apprehended immediately and later sentenced to serve nine months in a correctional center and pay a $7,093 fine to go toward the cost of Bell repairs. The dents created by the hammer blows were filled in with an inert plastic and colored to match the Bell’s undamaged surface. These fills are easily removable and cause no permanent change to the Bell’s surface.

Fall 2001

In the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, security around the Bell and Independence Hall is increased.

Spring 2002

Construction begins on the Bell’s new home, the Liberty Bell Center. Controversy about how much the new center will address the irony of slavery in the “cradle of liberty” surrounds the construction. The issues are brought to light because part of the center will stand on the nation’s first White House, where George Washington lived with his slaves.

Part of the National Park Service, Independence National Historical Park preserves sites associated with the American Revolution, including Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell and other historic sites that tell the story of the early days of the nation. Covering 45 acres in Old City Philadelphia, the park has 20 buildings open to the public. For park information, call (215) 597-8974 or go to www.nps.gov/inde.

For more information about travel to Philadelphia, visit gophila.com or call the new Independence Visitor Center, located in Independence National Historical Park, at (800) 537-7676.

The Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation  is a non-profit organization dedicated to generating awareness of and visitation to Philadelphia, Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery counties. For more information about travel to Philadelphia, visit gophila.com or call the new Independence Visitor Center, located in Independence National Historical Park, at (800) 537-7676. For information about arts and cultural attractions in the region, visit the Philadelphia CultureFiles at gophila.com.

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