DEAR READERS: Happy Independence Day! Here's a little history lesson:
The Pennsylvania Assembly ordered the Liberty Bell in 1751 to commemorate the 50-year anniversary of William Penn's Charter of Privileges, the original Constitution of the state of Pennsylvania. On Nov. 1, 1751, a letter was sent to order a bell from Whitechapel Foundry in London and to inscribe on it a passage from Leviticus: "Proclaim LIBERTY throughout all the Land unto all the Inhabitants thereof -- Lev. XXV X. By Order of the ASSEMBLY of the Province of PENSYLVANIA for the State House in Philada."
The bell was hung on March 10, 1753, and cracked the first time it was struck. At the time, it was thought that the bell was too brittle.
The Liberty Bell tolled when Benjamin Franklin was sent to England to address Colonial grievances, it tolled when King George III ascended to the throne in 1761, and it tolled to call together the people of Philadelphia to discuss the Sugar Act in 1764 and the Stamp Act in 1765.
In October 1777, the British occupied Philadelphia. The Liberty Bell was hidden in the floorboards of the Zion Reformed Church in Allentown. According to tradition, it continued tolling for the First Continental Congress in 1774, the Battles of Lexington and Concord in 1775 and on July 8, 1776, when it summoned the citizenry for the reading of the Declaration of Independence. The final expansion of the crack that rendered the bell unringable was on Washington's birthday in 1846.
The Liberty Bell was originally called the "State House Bell," but abolitionists adopted it as a symbol and gave it the name "Liberty Bell" in 1837.
Starting in the 1880s, the bell traveled to cities around the country "proclaiming liberty" and inspiring the cause of freedom. A replica of the Liberty Bell, forged in 1915, was used to promote women's suffrage. It traveled the country with its clapper chained to its side, silent until women won the right to vote. On Sept. 25, 1920, it was brought to Independence Hall and rung in ceremonies celebrating the ratification of the 19th amendment.
Each year, the bell is gently tapped in honor of Martin Luther King Day. On every Fourth of July, at 2 p.m. Eastern time, children who are descendants of Declaration signers symbolically tap the Liberty Bell 13 times while bells across the nation also ring 13 times in honor of the patriots from the original 13 states.
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