I’ve written previously about all the effort that went into constructing and furnishing the Idaho Building for the Exposition and Boise’s venerable Columbian Club, which is the last such club still active in the United States.
The Columbia Liberty Bell was the brainchild of William Dowell of New Jersey. He sought thousands of contributions to the project. Money was necessary, of course, but he envisioned a bell that included relics from history melted down to help form the bell. According to the website Chicagology, the bell included “ The keys of Jefferson Davis’ house, pike heads used by John Brown at Harper’s Ferry, John C, Calhoun’s silver spoon and Lucretia Mott’s silver fruit knife, Simon Bolivar’s watch chain, hinges from the door of Abraham Lincoln’s house at Springfield, George Washington’s surveying chain, Thomas Jefferson’s copper kettle, Mrs. Parnell’s earrings, and Whittier’s pen.”
Hattie Felix Harris stirred up interest in Idaho donations, which included “Bullion, gold and silver, besides some very rare relics.” In the May 13, 1893 article summing up the Idaho drive, the only item specifically noted was “a beautiful specimen of silver bullion taken from the DeLamar Mine” in Owyhee County.
Harris supplied the newspaper with a list of the monetary donations for counties around the state, totaling $110.
The Columbian Liberty Bell was cast on the evening of June 22, 1893, with at least 1,000 people looking on at the Meneely Bell Foundry in Troy, New York. That conglomeration of items and materials included in the pour did not affect it, according to Mr. Maneely, in a New York Times article the following day. “Mr. Maneely says… the great bulk of the material is copper and tin, and the gold and silver form only a small portion of the whole mass.”
And, what a mass it was. The bell weighed 13,000 pounds and stood seven feet high.
The Columbian Liberty Bell arrived late for its date in Chicago. It rang several times during the Exposition for various events. Crowd interest was not what promoters had hoped. There was so much else to see.
After the Exposition closed, the bell went on a world tour. And that was the end of it. How one loses track of a 13,000-pound bell is puzzling. The best guess anyone has is that it was melted down during the Bolshevik revolution.