7 Things You Didn't Know About the Liberty Bell

Let freedom ring!

"The bells rang all day and almost all night," John Adams noted on July 8, 1776. It was on this date many historians believe the Liberty Bell rang in Philadelphia to mark the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence.

However, there's no documented proof Adams was even talking about the Liberty Bell—or that it rang at all. As you'll see in some of the interesting facts below, this isn't the only thing about the iconic symbol of American freedom that isn't always clear as a bell.

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The Stats

Liberty Bell in Philadelphia
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Sure, it's pretty small compared to that other American icon, but the Liberty Bell still weighs approximately 2,080 pounds and has a 44-pound clapper. It's 12 feet in circumference around the lip and 3 feet tall. The bell is made of bronze—25 percent tin, 70 percent copper, with traces of gold, silver, arsenic, zinc, and lead. Some believe it is still suspended from its original yoke, which is another 100 pounds, made of American elm. But there's no evidence to support that either.

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The Creation

Liberty Bell
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In 1751, the Pennsylvania Provincial Assembly commissioned the construction of the bell to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Pennsylvania's original constitution. Its cost was around $225.50 at the time. Ironically, it was a London-based company named Lester and Pack that created it. To be fair, it was before the start of the American Revolution... but still!

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The Crack

Liberty Bell crack
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If you know one thing about the Liberty Bell, you probably know that it's cracked. In fact, it cracked the very first time it rang and was melted down and recast by local metalworkers John Pass and John Stow—twice for the same problem. There are many hairline breaks, but the main crack is 24.5 inches long and half of an inch wide. Pass and Stow actually widened this crack as part of the repair, to prevent further damage. 

But did you know it's not the bell's only flaw? Pennsylvania is misspelled as "Pensylvania," though it was one of a few accepted spellings of the name at that time.

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The Message

Liberty Bell
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If you look beyond the crack, you'll see the Liberty Bell bears an inscription around the top from Leviticus 25:10 in the Old Testament: "Proclaim Liberty Throughout All the Land Unto All the Inhabitants Thereof." The words were chosen by the Speaker of the Pennsylvania Assembly, Isaac Norris.

It's no wonder the historic bell would later be coined the "Liberty Bell" in a 1839 poem in an abolitionist pamphlet. Or that it would unintentionally became an important symbol for movements including Women's Suffrage and Civil Rights.

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The Sound

Liberty Bell
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No one living today has actually heard the Liberty Bell ring with its clapper (but if we could, the strike note would apparently be an E flat). According to most historians, the bell gave its last ring on Monday, February 26, 1846, in honor of George Washington's birthday.

As we mentioned earlier, it's unclear whether the bell rang on July 8, 1776, but there is evidence it rang to mark the Stamp Act of 1765, when King George III ascended to the throne in 1761, and when the historic American Revolution battles at Lexington and Concord took place in 1775.

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The Moves

Liberty Bell in Philadelphia
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Though it's maintained by the National Parks Service, the City of Philadelphia owns the Liberty Bell. But it hasn't always stayed put. In the city itself, it has had three homes (Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell Pavilion, and the Liberty Bell Center). One of its most vital moves, however, was during the American Revolution. Patriots moved the bell to Allentown, PA to protect it from being melted down by the British.

After its final ring, the bell went on the road, traveling across the country to various expos and fairs in small towns and big cities. It was later returned to Philadelphia, where millions still visit it today.

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The Influence

Liberty Bell Stamp
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So many groups throughout history have seen the Liberty Bell as a symbol of hope and freedom, reminding them of a time Americans came together to fight for independence. It was even the theme for the first mechanical slot machine invented in 1895! Long after its final toll, its influence remains powerful today. According to USPS, which produces the popular image on its Forever Stamps, the Liberty Bell "is perhaps the most prominent and recognizable symbol associated with American independence."

Next: 130-Year-Old Lady Liberty Answers Your Most Burning Questions