There are many people who are able to tell their childhood stories of their trips to the Liberty Bell. A vast majority of them involve actually touching the Liberty Bell. However, there is confusion today about whether you can touch the Liberty Bell or not.
To be clear, no, you cannot touch the liberty bell. It is placed in a building of its own and guarded by park rangers, who will most definitely remind you not to touch the liberty bell even if you do attempt to do so.
Keep reading below for more information.
History of the Liberty Bell
Pennsylvania’s historic Provincial Assembly purchased a massive bell for its new state house (later renamed Independence Hall) in 1751, costing roughly 100 pounds.
The bell was originally made in London at the Whitechapel Bell Foundry and shipped to Philadelphia in August 1752. The metal was so fragile that it broke during the test strike and required two recastings.
The completed product, consisting of 70% copper and 25% tin with small quantities of lead, zinc, arsenic, gold, and silver, spanned 12 feet in diameter at the base and 3 feet in height at the top and weighed roughly 2,080 pounds.
The first public reading of the Declaration of Independence was commemorated by the ringing of the bell on July 8, 1776.
When the British invaded Philadelphia, the bell was hidden in a church until it could be brought back to the State House. Although it became widely recognized as a symbol of the new nation and its freedom in the 1830s, it wasn’t named “Liberty Bell” until then.
It is said that the first crack appeared in 1824 when the Revolutionary War hero Marquis de Lafayette was in town on a visit. However, this is just one of the numerous legends that circulate about the structure.
According to another legend, it may have cracked later that year while it was being rung to alert people to a fire.
Newspaper records of Chief Justice John Marshall’s 1835 funeral do not mention the bell cracking, despite the fact that this is one of the more widespread urban legends about the burial.
Whatever the reality may be, it appears that the bell had already sustained significant damage by the year 1846, when (as per the official municipal documents) the mayor of Philadelphia suggested that the bell be rung in celebration of George Washington’s birthday.
An existing crack in the bell was attempted to be repaired for the event, and the bell was said to toll loud and clear at first, but it eventually cracked beyond restoration and was therefore taken out of operation.
Millions of people visit Independence National Historic Park every year to see the Liberty Bell and its famed crack, which was first displayed in a pavilion near Independence Hall in 1976 (the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence).
Why Can’t You Touch the Liberty Bell?
There are many people who can clearly remember being allowed to touch the Liberty Bell when they were young. But they can’t do so anymore.
There are many theories about why, and a lot of them pertain to the hammer incident.
On April 6, 2001, Mitchell A. Guilliatt accompanied approximately 40 tourists into the Liberty Bell Pavilion. After a park ranger gave a historical lesson, Guilliatt grabbed a hammer out of a bag, hit the cracked bell several times, and shouted, “God lives.”
Guilliatt was arrested for his actions.
In addition to five years of probation, Mitchell A. Guilliatt, 28, was directed to pay back $7,093 to repair the gouge marks he created in the Bell of Liberty.
Other theories suggest that the reason nobody is allowed to touch the liberty bell is because of its prior mistreatment by the public.
Back in the 1990s, the liberty bell was made of soft alloy metal, and people often brought a knife to scrape the bottom (hence, explaining the uneven bottom of the bell) to take a piece with them as a souvenir.
Soon after this, the liberty bell was shifted from Independence Hall to its own building, guarded by a park ranger who would tell everybody not to touch the bell.
Some Important Fact-Checking About the Liberty Bell
Since there are so many myths about the Liberty Bell, we thought it important to do some fact-checking on our own.
For more information about the Liberty Bell, watch this video below:
The Liberty Bell was rung long before the American Revolution. When William Penn’s Charter of Privileges, written in 1701, turned 50 years old, the Pennsylvania Assembly commemorated the occasion by commissioning the creation of the Liberty Bell. This bell functioned as the state’s constitution.
On the bell is the Bible verse, “Proclaim Liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.” The Pennsylvania Assembly and the bell’s manufacturer are also discussed.
It is currently unclear when the Bell was actually cracked. Historians disagree strongly on what caused the rift. The Bell may have been tested for the first time in 1752, shortly after it was brought to Philadelphia.
The bell frequently rang throughout its useful life. Many people and events heard the Bell chime between 1753 and 1846. The deaths of Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, and Thomas Jefferson were also commemorated by its tolling.
This landmark wasn’t always known as the Liberty Bell. The State House Bell was its formal name. During the anti-slavery struggle of the 1830s, it became known as the Liberty Bell.
It’s possible that the bell didn’t ring on July 8, 1776. The public announcement of the Declaration of Independence was met with bells ringing throughout the city of Philadelphia.
As reported by the Independence Hall Association, the statehouse tower was undergoing maintenance at the time in question, making it highly unlikely that the Liberty Bell was being rung at the time.
But without firsthand testimony from the time, we can only speculate.
The last time the Liberty Bell went on tour was in 1915. The bell used to go on tours around the country, but it started to show signs of wear and tear in the years leading up to World War I.
In conclusion, although you are not allowed to touch the liberty bell itself, you can still explore the park, view the bell, take some pictures with it, and learn about its history. It surely is a magnificent landmark.