Proclaim LIBERTY throughout all the Land unto all the Inhabitants
thereof Lev. XXV X
By Order of the ASSEMBLY of the Province of PENSYLVANIA for
the State House in Philada.
Pass and Stow
The Liberty Bell was created in 1751 for the steeple of the Pennsylvania State House (now Independence Hall) in Philadelphia. It was frequently tolled to call the people of the city together to discuss important events, such as King George III's ascendence to the throne and the passing of the Stamp Act. The frequency of the ringing became so great that, in 1772, citizens living nearby complained of being "incommoded and distressed" by the nonstop "ringing of the great Bell in the steeple."
The Liberty Bell's finest hour came on July 8, 1776, when it was tolled to summon the citizenry for the reading of the Declaration of Independence produced by the Second Continental Congress. During the British occupation of Philadelphia, the Liberty Bell was hidden in a church in Allentown out of fear that the British army would melt the bell for ammunition. After the war, the bell was placed back into the State House and rung annually on such occasions as the Fourth of July and Washington's birthday. While Philadelphia was the nation's capital (roughly 1790-1800), the Liberty Bell was used to call the legislature into session.
Although the bell had been cracked for some time, a ringing on Washington's birthday in 1846 rendered the bell so cracked as to be unringable. The bell became a national icon soon afterward, as well as a symbol for the abolitionist movement in the United States. In fact, it is thought that an anti-slavery publication, William Lloyd Garrison's The Liberator, gave the bell the name "Liberty Bell." A popular fictional story written by George Lippard in 1847 firmly established the bell's close association with the Declaration of Independence in the minds of the public.
In the 1880's the bell began traveling to other cities as an uplifting symbol of American independence. A beautiful photo essay of the bell's 1915 jounrey to San Francisco is available at http://www.ushistory.org/libertybell/1915.html . In 1976 the Liberty Bell was moved to the Liberty Bell Pavillion in Philadelphia as part of that city's bicentennial celebrations, and that's where you can find it today. The bell is owned by the city of Philadelphia.
The Liberty Bell remains a popular tourist attraction and a source of pride for Philadelphians. It is an ever-present reminder of the exciting times during which this nation was formed, as well an easily-recognized symbol of independence which is reproduced on shirts, engravings and murals throughout the city.