The Quick 10: For Whom the Liberty Bell Tolls


Legend has it that on July 8, 1776, the Liberty Bell rang out to summon Philadelphians to hear the first official reading of the Declaration of Independence. As with a lot of stories that store with "legend has it," sadly, there's probably not any truth to it. But it's a nice thought, and to honor the legend, here are 10 quick facts about one of the most famous bells in the world.

1. There's a typo on it. The inscription on the bell reads,

"Proclaim LIBERTY throughout all the Land unto all the Inhabitants thereof Lev. XXV X By Order of the ASSEMBLY of the Province of PENSYLVANIA for the State House in Philada Pass and Stow Philada MDCCLII"

Well, actually, it's not a true typo. At the time, the double "N" wasn't set in stone - if you can find old enough maps you'll see that "Pensylvania" wasn't an uncommon spelling. But it sure looks funny today.

2. You might be wondering what the heck "Pass and Stow" means.

Don't ponder too hard - it's not a cryptic message. They're actually just the last names of John Pass and John Stow, the two men who recast the bell after it cracked during testing shortly after its 1752 arrival.

3. Apparently recasting didn't do much good for long, because as everyone knows, it cracked again.

On February 22, 1846, the bell tolled for George Washington's birthday. It rang for several hours, in fact, which was more than the bell could handle. That day, a small crack turned into a gigantic crack and the bell was retired forever when it was deemed unusable.

4. They did try to repair it one last time - in fact, the width of the crack is from the attempted repair job, not from the actual fracture.

5. You won't hear the actual Liberty Bell ring, but you can hear its replica in Liberty Square at the Magic Kingdom in Disney World in Orlando. It rings on holidays related to the Revolutionary War. And if you're worried about authenticity, you won't get much more authentic than this bell - it's the only bell ever cast from the molds of the real Liberty Bell. Just like the original Liberty Bell once did, the replica rings in E flat.

6. It's hard to imagine the magnificent Liberty Bell covered in manure, but it once was. After the American defeat at the Battle of Brandywine, people were worried the British would storm into town and melt down any metal they could get their hands on to make cannons. The solution? Eleven historic bells were hidden in carts and wagons and removed from the city under piles of hay and manure. Not very dignified, but it worked!

7. The British would have needed some serious muscle to steal the Liberty Bell anyway - at 2,000+ pounds, it's definitely not something you can just make off with. The clapper alone is nearly 45 pounds. The bell is made of 70 percent copper, 25 percent tin and small amounts of lead, zinc, arsenic, gold and silver.

8. For quite some time, the bell was just referred to as "the State House bell." It wasn't given its famous moniker until the 1830s, when abolitionists recalled the bell's inscription and decided it was a perfect symbol of their cause.

9. As far as we know, the bell hangs from its original yoke. It's made from, appropriately, American Elm.

10. In 1996, Taco Bell took out a full page ad in The New York Times saying that they had purchased the Liberty Bell and would be changed the name to the Taco Liberty Bell. The date? April 1. Although it was a joke, many people were not amused, finding the publicity stunt to be in poor taste.

A bonus #11: There's a replica of the Liberty Bell in every state. In 1950, the copies were made as part of a savings bond drive called "Save for Your Independence." Curious as to where your state's bell is? Wonder no more.

We lived in Philadelphia for a brief period of time and visited the bell just once. I remember being a bit surprised at how it's just there - not behind glass or anything. Then again, I suppose it's probably hard to do much damage to a 2,000 pound bell before someone catches you. Have you visited the bell? What did you think?