Getting a visit from the bell is unlikely today, but it once travelled quite a lot to fairs and patriotic assemblages. On its most recent trip from Philadelphia it made it all the way to Idaho. That was over a hundred years ago.
The Liberty Bell was the centerpiece of a bond drive to support World War I. Mounted on a railroad flatcar it toured the United States in 1915 on its way to the Panama-Pacific International exposition in San Francisco and back. By some estimates, half the people in the country turned out to see it.
The bell was on view in Boise from 7:15 to 8 am, July 13, 1915. Between 15,000 and 20,000 people came to see it. The arrival of the bell was front page news in the Meridian Times even though the bell didn’t make a stop in Meridian. It did slow down. About 8,000 people turned out in Caldwell for the 25-minute stop there, before it steamed away into Oregon for the final leg of its trip to San Francisco.
The bell was then, and remains today, a beloved US icon. Why, exactly? Partly because of its inscription, and partly because of a popular fiction that grew up around it.
The bell was cast in London in 1752, commissioned by the Pennsylvania Provincial Assembly, and inscribed with a quote from Leviticus, “Proclaim LIBERTY Throughout all the Land unto all the Inhabitants Thereof.”
The bell cracked right away when it was first rung in Philadelphia. It was twice recast to repair it.
A popular story had it that the bell rang out on July 4, 1776, announcing the Declaration of Independence. No such announcement was made that day, but historians agree it was probably one of many bells that rang in the city on July 8, when the announcement was made.
The original crack having been repaired, the bell cracked again—and remained so—sometime in the early 19th century.
As a symbol of liberty, it was a war bond star. Americans bought an average of $170 each in the Liberty Bell war bond drives.