The Liberty Bell, which sits in Independence Hall in Philadelphia, is one of the most famous American symbols of freedom, abolition, and, of course, liberty.
You’ve seen it on postcards, stamps, films, and television shows. Some people are lucky enough to visit Philadelphia and see it in person. When looking at the 270-year-old bell, you’ll notice it has a large crack in it. Have you ever wondered how it got there?
In 1751, Isaac Norris, who was the Speaker of the Pennsylvania Assembly, ordered the bell from the Whitechapel Foundry in London so it could go in the bell tower at the Pennsylvania State House.
The Pennsylvania State House was where the Constitution and Declaration of Independence would be created and debated, and today, it’s known as Independence Hall.
When the Liberty Bell was first rung as a test, it cracked. So, American metalworkers John Pass and John Stow took the original bell, melted it down, and cast a new one. They added copper to make the bell less frail but used too much, which affected the bell’s toll.
The bell was inscribed with a quote from William Penn’s 1701 Charter of Privileges, which reads, “Proclaim Liberty Throughout All the Land Unto All the Inhabitants thereof.” Isaac Norris picked out the quote, and it was a powerful quote for abolitionists who stood for the end of slavery.
The bell would ring to announce the time, and it soon became a powerful symbol in some of America’s most important movements, like the women’s suffrage and civil rights movements. In the 1800s, it was paraded around the country to inspire Americans and give them the opportunity to see it.
Then, it cracked somewhere along the line, which some people believe was in the 1840s. No one can say for sure how exactly the new bell first cracked, but the crack we see in the bell today was eventually done on purpose.
Likely in 1846, the city decided to repair the cracked bell before George Washington’s 115th birthday on February 23rd.