advertisement

You almost can't leave Philadelphia without seeing the Liberty Bell. The bell resides in a 13,000-square-foot, $12.9-million modern glass gazebo, 235 feet long and 50 feet wide, angled so you can see it against the backdrop of Independence Hall.

The Liberty Bell, America's symbol of freedom and independence, was commissioned in 1751 for the Pennsylvania State House to mark the 50th anniversary of a notable event: William Penn, who governed Pennsylvania alone under Crown charter terms, decided that free colonists had a right to govern themselves, so he established the Philadelphia Assembly under a new Charter of Privileges. The 2,000-pound bell, cast in England, cracked while it was being tested, and the Philadelphia firm of Pass and Stow recast it by 1753. It hung in Independence Hall to "proclaim liberty throughout the land" as the Declaration of Independence was read aloud to the citizens. In 1777, it survived a trip to an Allentown church so the British wouldn't find it and melt it down for ammunition. In the 1840s, the term Liberty Bell was coined by the abolitionist movement, which recognized the relevance of its inscription, "Proclaim Liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof," in the fight against slavery. The last time it tolled was to celebrate Washington's birthday in 1846.

The new building offers excellent information and interactive exhibits, including an X-ray of the bell's crack and a film produced by the History Channel about how the bell became an international icon of freedom. Language options for the narrative videos range from Russian to Chinese to German.