For Whom The Bell Tolls
In 1752, two hundred and sixty years ago, the first “Liberty Bell” arrived in Philadelphia. The Pennsylvania Assembly ordered the bell in 1751 to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of its Constitution. It was to be placed in the State House steeple (later called Independence Hall).
It was first hung to test the sound in March of 1753. People were horrified to learn that it had been cracked by the clapper, due to flaws in the casting. This, however, is NOT the famous crack that everyone knows about.
Pass and Snow, Philadelphia foundry workers, were given the job of melting the bell down and recasting it. They added significant amounts of copper to make the new bell less brittle. The new bell was hung again later in 1753. Almost nobody liked the tone of the new bell. Pass and Snow tried again, melting it down and recasting it. In November of the same year, it was hung a third time and people were still displeased with the sound. A new bell was ordered from the original foundry in England. When it arrived, it sounded no better than the Pass and Snow bell.
This new replacement bell was still hung at the State House in a different location and was rung daily (being connected to the clock). The original Pass and Snow bell (not yet called the Liberty Bell) was rung on special occasions only such as the First Continental Congress meeting (1774) and after the Battles of Lexington and Concord (1775). The most famous legendary ringing of the Pass and Snow bell was thought to be on July 8, 1776, when the Declaration of Independence was first read to the public. Because of the poor condition of the steeple, historians doubt that this story is true.
The name “Liberty Bell” was first used in the late 1830’s; bestowed on it by Abolitionists who adopted the bell as a symbol for their cause. The Abolitionists believed the passage from the Bible cast on the bell demanded that all slaves and prisoners were to be freed.
The Women’s Suffrage Movement also used a replica of the Liberty Bell; its clapper chained to the side to represent their lack of a voice in America. The chain was removed and the bell rung in 1920 after the ratification of the 19th Amendment.