Let Freedom Ring

There is a widely held belief that the Liberty Bell cracked when it was rung to announce the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. This is a charming myth but untrue. The bell rang on 8 July to summon the people to hear the first public reading of the historic document. Moreover, this sacred symbol of our freedom does not need a fabricated myth to enhance its value. It carries a dramatic history of its own.

In 1751 the Pennsylvania Assembly ordered a bell for the State House (now Independence Hall) in Philadelphia. The order was placed with Whitechapel Bell Foundry in London. The inscription was from the Bible, Leviticus 25-10: 'PROCLAIM LIBERTY THROUGHOUT ALL THE LAND AND UNTO THE INHABITANTS THEREOF." The bell was delivered in September 1752. When it was tested, it cracked. Two foundry craftsmen, John Pass and John Stow, agreed to recast the 2,081 pound Liberty Bell for 36 British pounds. Meanwhile, the Assembly ordered a second bell which arrived in 1754.

Philadelphia now had two bells. The new bell was hung in the State House cupola and used to ring out the hours. The recast Liberty Bell remained in the State House steeple to ring on special occasions, like the first reading of the Declaration of Independence .

The British occupied Philadelphia a year later. The Continental Congress fled, taking both bells with them. They were not just protecting a revered symbol. The British would have melted both bells down to make cannonballs. After the Revolutionary War the bells were returned to their rightful places. The Liberty Bell was again reserved for special messages. It tolled to announce the deaths of Presidents Washington, Adams and Jefferson. A major crack appeared on July 8, 1835 when it announced the death of Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall. The damaged bell was used sparingly after that. In 1846 the crack was intentionally widened to reduce vibrations when rung. In 1907 a second crack appeared and the Liberty Bell was retired.

The silent but revered national icon still has the power to inspire us. After being on display during the Centennial Celebration of 1876, the bell toured the country several times. New Orleans, Chicago, Charleston, Boston , St. Louis and San Francisco all hosted the bell between 1885 and 1915. The public was allowed to touch the bell and, unfortunately, some over-zealous souvenir hunters managed to chisel some thirty pounds of metal from the mouth of the bell. If you look carefully you can see the scars left by their chisels.

The Liberty Bell is the property of the city of Philadelphia. To insure that this desecration would never be repeated, the city passed legislation forbidding the bell to ever leave Philadelphia again. You can still see, but not touch, the Liberty Bell. It is safely encased in a glass case in the Liberty Bell Pavilion. This in no way diminishes the message: "Proclaim Liberty Throughout All The Land And Unto The Inhabitants Thereof." Perhaps it is well that the bell is scared and cracked. It replicates our history. Our democracy is not perfect. We have made mistakes but the ship of state has always righted itself and sailed on. We are still, as Lincoln said," The last, best hope for Mankind." Philadelphia Cream Cheese Crab Dip is another treasure.


1-10 oz. can mushroom soup

1-8 oz. package cream cheese

2-tablespoons lemon juice

1-6 oz. can crab meat

3-scallions, finely chopped

3/4-cup mayonnaise

PREPARATION: Melt cheese and soup together over very low heat, mix well. Cool for ten minutes, add other ingredients, mix well and chill before serving with chips.

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