November 1, 1751, a letter was sent to Robert Charles (Colonial Agent of the Province of Pensylvania [sic] who worked in London) from Isaac Norris, Thomas Leech, and Edward Warner that would start one of the most iconic and meaningful symbols of Liberty. For £150, 13 shillings, and 8 pence (roughly $10,539.44 in 2023) Norris, Leech, and Warner ordered a bell with the intention of placing in the State house Steeple. Today, the State House Steeple is known as Independence Hall. Piecing all these hints together, along with our picture, it’s easy to see we are discussing the Liberty Bell.
The State House Bell arrived in Philadelphia on September 1, 1752, and was hung on March 10, 1753. The purpose of ordering the State House Bell was to celebrate 50 years of William Penn’s 1701 Charter of Privileges, Pensylvania’s [sic] original Constitution. The Charter broke down rights and freedoms that hold human value and what Pennsylvania would embrace. For this reason, the bell was inscribed:
“Proclaim Liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof”
This statement comes from Leviticus 25:10 “And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof; it shall be a jubilee unto you; and ye shall return every man unto his possession, and ye shall return every man unto his family.” Not only did the 50 years hold value for marking the Charter of Privileges anniversary but the New York Anti-Slavery Society used the bible verse as an important note for the abolitionists' symbol that we will discuss later.
The birth of such a strong symbol almost died upon the arrival of the bell. The clapper broke on its first use. John Pass and John Stow repaired the bell; however, the tone of the bell was not pleasing. John Pass and John Stow would completely recast and place their name and date on the bell: Pass and Stow MDCCLIII. Since the recast and new E flat ring, the bell was used to announce important events such as:
Benjamin Franklin sent to England to address Colonial grievances
King George III ascended the throne in 1761
Calling assembly for the Sugar Act in 1764
Calling assembly for the Stamp Act in 1765
Calling the First Continental Congress in 1774
Battle of Lexington and Concord in 1775
It is in debate if the steeple was in a stable condition for the July 8, 1776, ringing. The first public reading of the Declaration of Independence.
In October 1777, the British occupied Philadelphia. The citizens feared the British would take all bells, melt them down, and use them for cannons. The bell was moved to Allentown, Pennsylvania, and hidden in the floorboards of the Zion Reformed Church. A year later, the bell was back at Independence Hall. Once in place, the bell continued to be used calling the State Legislature into session, summoning voters, and commemorating Washington’s birthday when it was damaged beyond repair. On February 26, 1846, Philadelphia Public Ledger’s words described the bell “…now hangs in the great city steeple irreparably cracked and dumb…”.
In 1835 R. G. William wrote the Leviticus inscription was considered “a sort of prophecy” and demanded that the inscription be honored freeing 1/6th of the inhabitants from slavery. After the Civil War, Americans were looking for a way to reunite as a country and took the bell from the Nation’s capital (Philadelphia at the time) on a road trip proclaiming liberty and where the abolitionists deemed the bell its famous name: The Liberty Bell.
It was at this point The Liberty Bell was a symbol of pride and freedom. The Liberty Bell was placed everywhere in the public eye. As the nation grew the need to push liberty further came about and a replica was created as a symbol for women’s suffrage. With such an important turning point for the Nation and its ‘inhabitants’, the Liberty Bell still holds a strong symbol of freedom. Americans travel to Independence National Historic Park where the bell is tapped 13 times on Independence Day and tapped on Martin Luther King, Jr Day for these symbolic reasons.