One of America’s most precious artifacts is the Liberty Bell, which is located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. While it is a very popular sight to see, many people wonder: is the Liberty Bell inside or outside?
The Liberty Bell is located in the Liberty Bell Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. While the Bell is located indoors, inside the center, it is plainly visible from the outside as it is nestled in an alcove with floor-to-ceiling windows. If you want to see it from inside, admission is free!
So why was the Liberty Bell created? How did it get cracked? Where was the Liberty Bell first hung? Does it still ring today? Read on to learn the answers to these questions and more.
Visiting The Liberty Bell
Philadelphia is full of historical significance. One of the most important historical artifacts in Philadelphia is the Liberty Bell.
Commissioned in 1751 by the Pennsylvania Assembly, the Liberty Bell is a good-sized artifact. It stands about four feet tall, with a 12-foot circumference around the lip and a 6’11”-circumference around the crown. The Liberty Bell weighs just over one ton, at 2,080 pounds. Even today, moving an object that large is difficult; in the late 18th century, it required a lot of ingenuity and elbow grease.
Originally, the Liberty Bell was hung in the steeple of Independence Hall, where it stayed for many years. Then, in the late 1800s, the Bell began to travel the land for expos and fairs. In 1885, the Bell journeyed to New Orleans as part of the World Cotton Centennial Exposition. It briefly stopped in Biloxi, Mississippi, and later traveled to Chicago for the World Columbian Exposition.
While these journeys were a good way for Americans to see part of their history, traveling the land by train was not good for the Bell, which came back from Chicago with a new crack in it. The City of Philadelphia found this quite annoying and since then has stopped lending out the bell to other cities, even if they ask very nicely.
While the City of Philadelphia still technically owns the Bell, it gave custody of the Bell to the National Park Service in 1948 in recognition of the fact that the Bell – being a significant American treasure – really belongs to all of us.
When it was acquired by the Park Service, the Bell lived in Independence Hall. In 1976, for the American bicentennial, it was moved to a new visitor’s hall on the Independence Mall while the National Park Service planned out its permanent home.
Today, the Liberty Bell lives in the Liberty Bell Center, which is located on Market Street in Philadelphia. Friendly Park Rangers are stationed throughout the exhibit hall to provide historical context and answer questions from the curious.
In order to protect it from natural elements, vandals, and other problematic things, the Liberty Bell is kept safely inside the Liberty Bell Center. If you do not wish to wait in line to go to the center, you can see the Bell from the outside through a wall of windows that faces Independence Hall. Go to the corner of Chestnut and North 6th Street and head north about 50 feet to get the best view of the Bell.
Since the Liberty Bell is such an important piece of American history, the National Park Service does not charge admission to see the Bell – you can get in for free!
However, Liberty Bell Center is very popular, and you should build in time to potentially wait in line. Admission is first-come-first-served, and visitors must pass through a security checkpoint. The Park Service recommends bringing only a small bag to help you flow through the checkpoint more easily.
While visitors in the old days could touch the Bell, several incidents of attempted vandalism prompted the Park Service to take more security measures around the Bell. Today, the Liberty Bell is safely stored behind cordons and guarded by Park Rangers to ensure no nefarious people harm the Bell.
Why Was the Liberty Bell Created?
The Pennsylvania Assembly originally commissioned the Liberty Bell in 1751 to celebrate the 50-year anniversary of the Charter of Privileges, the original constitution of the state of Pennsylvania. Initially, the Bell was intended to hang in the Pennsylvania State House, also known as Independence Hall. The Bell was ordered from Whitechapel Foundry in England and then shipped to Pennsylvania.
The idea was inspired by the Bible verse in Leviticus 25:10, which reads in part, “Consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants.” In other words, the Pennsylvania Assembly wanted to let the sound of liberty echo across the land as a way of celebrating the Charter of Privileges.
Keystone Answers Fun Fact: When the Liberty Bell was recast, the townspeople did not like the sound of it – so they ordered another bell from England. Unfortunately, this second bell was no better, but the locals made the best of it and hung the second bell in the cupola of the State House roof, where it was rung to tell the time.
Why Did the Liberty Bell Crack?
The Liberty Bell cracked during a test ring. It was not entirely uncommon for bells to crack in the 1700s, as metallurgy was still a rising science. Experts say that the bell was too brittle, and when the clapper struck the side of it, the bell cracked.
To fix smaller imperfections like hairline cracks, metallurgists would often use a small borehole to stop the crack from advancing. However, in the case of the Liberty Bell, the crack proved too large to bore, and the bell was subsequently recast twice before being deemed usable. The final alloy used to cast the bell was about 70% copper and 25% tin, with the remaining 5% or so split between lead, zinc, arsenic, gold, and silver.
After being fixed, the Liberty Bell worked wonderfully for many years. On July 8, 1776, the Bell was rung to celebrate the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence. It was then used to mark events of public significance, such as fires, holidays, and funerals.
However, sometime in the early 1840s, a small split developed in the bell. To fix it, metalworkers used a new technique called “stop drilling” which actually widened the crack but left the bell usable. In fact, the large crack we know the bell for is the repair job!
In 1846, however, the bell cracked again while being rung to celebrate George Washington’s birthday. This final crack rendered the bell inoperable. Repair efforts would likely end up destroying the bell, so it was deemed best to leave the Bell as a historical artifact rather than recast it.
Where Was the Liberty Bell First Hung?
The Liberty Bell was originally hung in the steeple of the Pennsylvania State House, now known as Independence Hall. It was installed on March 10, 1753, on which day the clapper caused the initial crack in the Liberty Bell, much to the distress of all involved.
After being recast, the Liberty Bell was once again hung in the steeple, where it resided until 1777, when the English invaded and occupied Philadelphia. All bells were removed from the city during the invasion, as it was widely understood that the English would steal the bells and melt them down to be converted into cannons.
The Liberty Bell was hidden beneath the floorboards of the Zion Reformed Church in Allentown and reinstalled after the English gave up and went home.
Does the Liberty Bell Still Ring?
Today, the Liberty Bell is mostly silent. It does not ring in the traditional sense as the impact of the clapper and vibration of the metal would likely shatter it.
However, every Fourth of July at 2 pm, descendants of the original signers of the Declaration of Independence symbolically tap the Liberty Bell 13 times in honor of patriots from the original 13 states. The bell is also tapped in honor of Martin Luther King Day, to honor and celebrate the notion of Liberty and Justice for All.
What Wood Does the Liberty Bell Hang From?
Today, the Liberty Bell hangs from a wooden yoke. The yoke is made from American Elm. Details on the wooden yoke from which the Bell hangs are scarce, but while it appears to be very old, there is no documentation to prove that the wood is original to the Bell.
Let Freedom Ring
While our modern age of digital bleeps and bloops has led many of us to forget the sound of ringing bells, in the era of our nation’s founding, bells were an important means of communicating in both the literal and symbolic sense.
The Liberty Bell was chartered to symbolize the freedoms guaranteed by the Charter of Privileges and was used for both ceremonial and practical purposes.
While the unfortunate nature of the crack in the bell means that you won’t hear the Liberty Bell ring, a trip to visit this amazing historical icon is both educational and inspiring. Whether you choose to view it from the outside or inside, the Liberty Bell is a must-see American icon for anyone who loves American history.