The Liberty Bell got its name from being rung July 8, 1776, to call the citizens of Philadelphia together to hear the Declaration of Independence read out loud for the first time. The Liberty Bell, weighing over 2,000 pounds, was cast in England in August of 1752. The Pennsylvania Assembly ordered it to commemorate the 50th anniversary of William Penn founding the colony in 1701 and writing the Charter of Privileges.
In 1751, the colony’s Assembly declared a “Year of Jubilee” and commissioned the bell to be put in the Philadelphia State House. Isaac Norris, Speaker of Pennsylvania’s Assembly, read Leviticus chapter 25 verse 10: “And ye shall make hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof; it shall be a jubilee.”
Inscribed on the Liberty Bell is: “Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.”
During the Revolution, as the British were invading Philadelphia in 1777, the Liberty Bell was rushed out of the city to prevent it from being melted down into musket balls. The Liberty Bell was hid in Zion Reformed Church in Allentown till the British departed Philadelphia. The Liberty Bell was returned to Philadelphia in June of 1778. The Liberty Bell was rung every anniversary of the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence.
The most common story is that the Liberty Bell cracked July 8, 1835, while being rung at the funeral of Chief Justice John Marshall, perhaps as a portent.
The Liberty Bell was popularized by the New York Anti-Slavery Society’s journal, Anti-Slavery Record. In 1839, Boston’s abolitionist society Friends of Liberty titled their journal the Liberty Bell. Abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison’s anti-slavery publication, the Liberator, helped promote the Liberty Bell as a symbol to fight slavery in the Democrat South.
At the 150th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, 1926, President Calvin Coolidge stated: “People at home and abroad consider Independence Hall as hallowed ground and revere the Liberty Bell as a sacred relic. That pile of bricks and mortar, that mass of metal, might appear as only the outgrown meeting place and the shattered bell. … But to those who know, they have become consecrated. They are the framework of a spiritual event. The world looks upon them because of their associations of 150 years ago, as it looks upon the Holy Land because of what took place there nineteen hundred years ago.”