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The Liberty Bell

The Liberty Bell

Gary B. Nash
Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 192
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt1npxk2
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  • Book Info
    The Liberty Bell
    Book Description:

    Each year, more than two million visitors line up near Philadelphia's Independence Hall and wait to gaze upon a flawed mass of metal forged more than two and a half centuries ago. Since its original casting in England in 1751, the Liberty Bell has survived a precarious journey on the road to becoming a symbol of the American identity, and in this masterful work, Gary B. Nash reveals how and why this voiceless bell continues to speak such volumes about our nation.

    A serious cultural history rooted in detailed research, Nash's book explores the impetus behind the bell's creation, as well as its evolutions in meaning through successive generations. With attention to Pennsylvania's Quaker roots, he analyzes the biblical passage from Leviticus that provided the bell's inscription and the valiant efforts of Philadelphia's unheralded brass founders who attempted to recast the bell after it cracked upon delivery from London's venerable Whitechapel Foundry. Nash fills in much-needed context surrounding the bell's role in announcing the Declaration of Independence and recounts the lesser-known histories of its seven later trips around the nation, when it served as a reminder of America's indomitable spirit in times of conflict. Drawing upon fascinating primary source documents, Nash's book continues a remarkable dialogue about a symbol of American patriotism second only in importance to the Stars and Stripes.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-16314-8
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. ix-xiv)

    It is America’s most famous relic, a nearly sacred totem. Several million people each year make a pilgrimage to see it, often dabbing their eyes as they gaze at it intently.

    Everywhere around the world it is regarded as a universal symbol of freedom. As icons go, there’s nothing quite like it short of the Rosetta Stone or the Holy Grail.

    It began inconspicuously; it nearly ended up in the scrap heap; it cracked and lost its voice; it was all but forgotten. But then, gradually, it became a priceless national treasure.

    The Liberty Bell is only a sliver of...

  4. ONE Beginnings
    (pp. 1-30)

    For almost seventy years an inconspicuous bell hanging from a branch in a tree behind colonial Pennsylvania’s State House in Philadelphia was enough to summon the legislative assembly, announce the reading of public proclamations, ring in the new year, and warn of danger. William Penn, Quaker leader and Pennsylvania’s founder, was said to have brought the bell himself to his City of Brotherly Love. But by 1751, after a decade of prosperity and heavy immigration of Germans and Scots-Irish, the city’s authorities wanted a bell whose peal would have greater carrying power—”a distance-conquering bell,” as one historian has put...

  5. TWO The Bell Becomes an Icon
    (pp. 31-76)

    “Whoever shall write a history of Philadelphia from the [eighteen-] Thirties to the end of the Fifties will record a popular period of turbulence and outrages so extensive as to now appear almost incredible.” Thus wrote Charles Godfrey Leland, a spirited Philadelphia journalist and poet who was looking back from the 1890s after a life of covering the city. The turbulence and outrages in the decades before the Civil War to which Leland referred were vicious racial and religious riots trammeling the city in an era before a municipal police force quelled them by collaring the street gangs—Moyamensing Killers,...

  6. THREE On the Road with the Bell
    (pp. 77-134)

    By the time the centennial birthday party ended and the celebrants had gone home, the Liberty Bell had achieved international recognition as a symbol of freedom and a worshiped heirloom of the American Revolution. Still shrouded in myth, the bell continued to be known for ringing in the announcement of the Declaration of Independence on July 4. Lippard’s legend was taken as fact in theDictionary of United States History, published a half-century later under the editorship of the president of the American Historical Association, John Franklin Jameson. John H. Hazelton’s scholarlyThe Declaration of Independencerepeated the story in...

  7. FOUR The Liberty Bell in War and Peace
    (pp. 135-180)

    After the United States entered the Great War on April 2, 1917, the Liberty Bell was enlisted, along with 9.5 million men, to make the world safe for democracy. To raise the money to support the war, President Woodrow Wilson and Congress authorized Liberty Bonds to “beat back the Hun.” Naturally, the Liberty Bell was appointed chief salesman of the bonds by which the American public would lend money to their government to conduct the war. “Old Liberty Bell to Peal for Bonds,” announced aNew York Timesheadline the day before Flag Day in 1917, the reporter noting, “Its...

  8. FIVE Everyone’s Liberty Bell
    (pp. 181-218)

    Picking up theNew York Times, Washington Post, Philadelphia Inquirer, Wall Street Journal, Dallas Morning News, orUSA Todayon April 1, 1996, readers nearly spilled their coffee when reading that the restaurant chain Taco Bell had purchased the Liberty Bell. In a full-page ad, the fastfood giant announced that it had made the purchase for an undisclosed amount “in an effort to help the national debt.” Furthermore, it disclosed that “one of our country’s most historic treasures . . . will now be called the ‘Taco Liberty Bell.’” A separate press release added details: the Taco Liberty Bell would...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 219-229)
  10. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 230-231)
  11. Index
    (pp. 232-242)