As the USA’s largest, most prosperous city at the time of the American Revolution, Philadelphia holds great significance in the country’s history books and a visit to the Liberty Bell tells a fascinating tale of how the bell helped to ring in a new and democratic America.
While the Liberty Bell now serves as a symbol of America’s independence, it originally held a very functional purpose. Commissioned by Pennsylvania’s Assembly who felt the city needed a louder bell to ring out announcements, it was used often in its early days to call lawmakers to meetings and townspeople to news readings.
The inscription on the bell, which reads “Proclaim Liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof”, held little significance in its early days. With time, it came to symbolise freedom and independence in the days of the revolution, and anti-slavery activists were the first to coin the name “Liberty Bell” in the 1930s. Later, the bell would toll at some of the country’s most historic moments, including the signing of the Constitution and the deaths of Presidents Benjamin Franklin and George Washington.
Besides its inspiring inscription, the bell’s best-known feature is the large crack that runs along its length, silencing it forever. The cause of the crack is widely debated but it is thought that it was caused by decades of hard use and early attempts to repair it which were unsuccessful.
Today, the bell is housed in the Liberty Bell Center where visitors can observe it and learn more about its illustrious history and role in America’s founding.
After passing through a security access point, visitors to the centre will enter a lobby where a short video presentation is available in addition to several artefacts and exhibits related to the creation and significance of the bell. As the centre is part of the National Parks Service, park rangers are on hand to answer any burning questions.
Browse through these displays and you’ll enter the glass-encased area where the famed bell is housed. Its positioning allows for a 360-degree view and the glass window behind the bell looks out onto Independence Hall, creating the perfect picture opportunity.
Visitors must pass through a security screening before entering the centre, so make sure your bags don’t contain pocket knives, sharp implements, or pepper spray as these are not permitted. While there are no restrooms in the centre itself, visitors can make use of the facilities in the nearby Independence Visitors’ Center. The video presentations and printed leaflets are available in several languages which can be requested from centre staff.
Independence Hall is located next to the Liberty Center, providing an easy and convenient way to view the historic room where the U.S. Constitution was signed.