The Liberty Bell has had a long and checkered past. It was ordered from an English foundry in 1751 to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the Pennsylvania colonial charter. Once delivered and in place with its first clang it cracked. It was then given to Philadelphia foundry workers, John Pass and John Stowe to recast.
When it was returned to Liberty Hall many thought the clang wasn’t right so it was sent back to Pass & Stowe to be recast a second time. This didn’t help as the sound remained. A new bell was ordered from England but upon arrival it was considered no better than the Liberty Bell so it was hung in City Hall and the Liberty Bell remained in place with its inferior clang.
Some would recount a story of the bell being rung the day the Declaration of Independence was signed. Many think this account to be false due to the poor condition of the Liberty Hall steeple. Even so, the story caught the imagination of America hence the bell will always be a symbol of Independence Day. Today’s descendants of the signers to the Declaration of Independence gather on fourth of July. Each tap the bell thirteen times in honor of their ancestors.
The Liberty Bell continued to ring over Independence Hall calling the state Assembly and marking celebrations until February 26, 1846. On this date it was last rung to commemorate George Washington’s birthday and on that occasion suffered an irreparable crack rendering it forever silent.
Even though it was no longer a working bell, it would become a symbol of freedom and the Abolitionists can take partial credit for this. Not only was the bell embraced as their symbol but also the bible versed quoted on its side their mantra. Leviticus 25:10 - “Proclaim Liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants there of ...′ It was the Abolitionists who named the old State House bell the “Liberty Bell” as they used its likeness to further their cause.
This valued symbol of American freedom was bound to find itself in all sorts of collectible mediums. From pencil sharpeners to coin banks replicas of the bell have been cast to attract buyers over the years. The Bell is famous as an American symbol and this makes it an ideal collectible whether it’s engraved on something or is an actual bell. Americans are patriotic and nostalgic, even though the Bell’s clang is gone its appeal continues on.
Jean McClelland writes about antiques and collectibles for The Herald-Dispatch.