We need to start by going back to the original Liberty Bell. In fact, it actually had several names prior to it becoming known as the Liberty Bell. Walt Disney World does a wonderful job of letting the Liberty Bell tell its own story, so how about we let it pick the tale up here:
The Province Bell was the name first used to describe me. I was ordered from the English bell foundry of Whitechapel in 1751 by the Pennsylvania Assembly. I was to be part of the celebration which would commemorate the 50th anniversary of William Penn’s Charter of Privileges signifying the founding of Pennsylvania.
Soon after being brought to America from England it was decided to test me for tonal quality. For this purpose I was hung in the notch of a tree and struck. With the first stroke of the clapper I sang out a glorious note. However, with the second strike I cracked and then gave off a terrible sound.
Two Philadelphia metalworkers, Pass and Stow, melted me down, added more copper and recast me. I was now an American bell although everything about me was the same as the first bell, including the inscription “Proclaim Liberty throughout all the Land unto all the Inhabitants thereof” and “By order of the Assembly of the Province of Pennsylvania for the State House in Philadelphia.”
People now knew me as the State House Bell. At first my only duty was to call the legislators to assemblies. However, as English rule became more and more intolerable I was used to summon people together to discuss and protest issues they considered unfair.
I was muffled as a symbol of protest and tolled slowly when the Sugar Act of 1764 and the Stamp Act of 1765 were passed into law. I continued to toll for the First Continental Congress in 1774. The time I remember best was on July 8, 1776, when I summoned the citizenry for the reading of the Declaration of Independence. It was during this era of unrest that I became known as The Bell of Independence and The Bell of Revolution.
During the Revolutionary War I was wildly rung to signify each victory and muffled and tolled slowly to announce each defeat. The people could judge the success of the war effort just by the way I was rung. I became so important to the people that when Philadelphia was invaded by advancing British forces, I was taken to Allentown, Pennsylvania and hidden in the floorboards of a church so the British wouldn’t find me. After a year in hiding, I was returned to the State House in Philadelphia. On September 3, 1783 I was rung joyously to celebrate the signing of the Treaty of Paris which ended the war between Great Britain and the United States.
After eighty years of almost continual use, I was rung to mourn the death of Chief Justice Marshall on July 8, 1835 and cracked. In 1846, I was rung for the last time to commemorate George Washington’s birthday. Although I can no longer be actually rung, I still occupy a special place in American history. The Herald of Freedom and the Liberty Bell are the names by which I am best known today; and perhaps these are the names which best describe me, for when the freedom and liberty of the United States hung in the balance, my voice was used to rally the people to the cause of Liberty.