On July 8, 1776, popular legend says the Liberty Bell rang to symbolize America’s independence from Great Britain. But many “facts” about the Bell, such as its 1776 ringing, are shrouded in mystery.
For example, how did the Liberty Bell get its famous crack? Did it really ring on July 4, 1776? And where was the Bell hidden from the British?
Here are some of the facts we do know about the Liberty Bell, and some theories to answer the other big questions about the Bell’s travels.
1. The Liberty Bell pre-dates the Revolution. The Pennsylvania Assembly had the Liberty Bell made in 1751 to mark the 50-year anniversary of William Penn's 1701 Charter of Privileges, which served as Pennsylvania's original Constitution.
2. What is written on the Bell? The following Bible verse is on the Bell: “Proclaim Liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.” Also included is information about the Pennsylvania Assembly and the Bell’s maker.
3. No one knows today when the Bell was cracked. The crack is a big subject of debate among historians. One theory is the Bell got its first crack in 1752 when it was tested upon its arrival in Philadelphia.
4. The last big crack happened on Washington’s Birthday. The Liberty Bell cracked up, literally, in February 1846, when it was rung on President’s Day, celebrated on Washington’s birthday, and then stopped ringing because of damage from a major crack.
5. The Liberty Bell rang often during its functional lifetime. Between 1753 and 1846, the Bell tolled for many people and occasions. It rang to mark the signing of the Constitution, and the deaths of Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, and Thomas Jefferson.
6. The Liberty Bell wasn’t the first name of this icon. The bell was originally known as the State House Bell. In the late 1830s, it acquired the name of the Liberty Bell when it became a symbol of the anti-slavery movement.
7. The bell probably didn’t ring on July 4, 1776. A magazine writer in 1847 made up the story of the bell ringing on the first Independence Day.
8. The bell may also not have rung on July 8, 1776. It is known that bells in the city of Philadelphia were ringing to celebrate the public announcement of the Declaration of Independence. According to the Independence Hall Association, the state house steeple was under repair at the time, making it unlikely for the Liberty Bell to be in use. But with no contemporary accounts, we just don't know.
9. The Bell did go on a Revolutionary road trip. In 1777, the Bell was removed from Philadelphia under armed guard and taken to Allentown, Pa., where it was hidden in a church. The fear was the British would melt the Bell and use it to make cannons. It came back to Philadelphia the following year.
10. The Liberty Bell last hit the road in 1915. Back in the day, the Bell went on tour around the United States, but in the days before World War I, it became clear the Bell had condition issues. Today, it resides at the Liberty Bell Center in Philadelphia, where it is occasionally tapped to mark special occasions.