About The Liberty Bell
The Liberty Bell is one of the most important symbols of freedom and liberty in the US. It’s mounted in Independence Hall, Philadelphia.
History of the Liberty Bell
Cast in London’s East End, the Liberty Bell arrived at Independence Hall – then called the Pennsylvania State House – in 1753 where it was hung. Traditionally, it was used to alert the public to civic danger or to hear proclamations. There it cracked on its very first toll.
After trying (and failing) to have the bell sent back to England, John Pass and John Stow, two Philadelphia metalworkers, melted down the bell and recast it. They included an inscription from Leviticus, ‘Proclaim LIBERTY throughout all the Land unto all the inhabitants thereof’. This bell was tested: it didn’t break (thankfully), but did make a horrible noise – it was recast once again in order to create a more satisfactory sound. In June 11753, it was finally hung in the State House.
Originally known as the Pass and Stow Bell, it gained the name the ‘Liberty Bell’ in the 1830s, when an anti-slavery publication claimed that the bell’s mournful toll was a chastisement to the citizens of Philadelphia for their failure to do more in the move towards abolition.
The precise date the Liberty Bell cracked is unknown, but it’s thought the bell developed a hairline crack in the early 1840s, following nearly 90 years of solid use. The wide crack visible today is actually a repair – the thin crack had to be widened and filled before the repair. However, this was merely a stop gap – a second, more damaging crack developed between the abbreviation of Philadelphia up through the word Liberty. This stopped the bell tolling ever again.
No one alive today knows what the sound of the Liberty Bell tolling would have been: computer modelling gives us our best bet.
The Liberty Bell today
The Liberty Bell is a hugely popular tourist attraction in Philadelphia: the line to see it often stretches hundreds of metres, and it can be hot and uncomfortable waiting in the summer months. At the end of the day, whilst it’s an important icon in the US history (it tolled on the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence) whether it’s worth the wait is really up to how important you think it is.
If you want to visit next door Independence Hall, you’ll need to book a timed ticket for a group tour in advance – they can go like hot cakes, so be prepared. The Liberty Bell is free to visit.
Getting to the Liberty Bell
Liberty Bell is enclosed by Chestnut Street, Market Street, and South 5th and 6th Streets in central Philadelphia. 5th Street Independence Hall Station is 2 minutes walk and bus routes 17 and 33 stop on Chestnut Street.
As with the centre of any city, parking is expensive and can be scarce, particularly in high season and at weekends. The Liberty Bell is walking distance from most sites in central Philadelphia.