Now it is very nice to keep family traditions and legends alive but certain parts of the story are definitely in error.
It would have you believe that the bell was moved from Philadelphia to Allentown because of its historic value. Actually it had no historic value at that time. It was merely the State House Bell which was rung to summon the citizens of Philadelphia to hear proclamations or for the holding of meetings.
And contrary to popular belief it did not ring on July 4, 1776 at the signing of the Declaration of Independence. It was not rung until July 8, 1776 to summon the people to hear the declaration read after it had been returned from the printer.
As to its movement from Philadelphia to Allentown it was only one bell on a military train of 700 wagons guarded by 200 cavalrymen from North Carolina and Virginia under the command of Colonel William Polk, of North Carolina.
The reason for its removal, along with all the other large bells in the city, was because it was feared that if the British occupied Philadelphia they would seize all the bells and melt them down for cannon shells and musket bullets.
Just exactly when the bell acquired the name, “Liberty Bell”, is not definitely know but one of the first written records giving it this name was not until 1839 when a Boston-based group of anti-slavery advocates, Friends of Freedom, published a pamphlet entitled “The Liberty Bell”. In the pamphlet was a sonnet, suggested by the inscription on the bell, which read, “It is no affront we sound, summoning nations to the conflict dire; No fearful peal from cities wrapped in fire, echoes at our behest, the land around; Yet would we rouse our country’s utmost bound.”
All of the facts regarding the “Bell” which I have quoted above are from the book, “Loud and Clear, The Story of the Liberty Bell”, by Harold V. B. Voorhis and Ronald E. Heaton, published in 1970.
Because of the great amount of research which went into the production of this book and the fact that it is regarded as a really authentic source of information about the bee it was awarded an Honor Certificate designated by the 1979 National Award Jury of the Freedom Foundation at Valley Forge.
It is also interesting to note that although the bell rang on July 9,1776 when the declaration was read in Philadelphia it was preceded by one day when, on July 7, 1776, Dr. Ebenezer Elmer, editor of the Plain Dealer, in Bridge Town (now Bridgeton) stood on the steps of Matthew Potter’s Tavern, in that town, and read the Declaration of Independence.
At the conclusion of his reading the bell in the Cumberland County Courthouse, across the street, rang out in jubilation. It has since been known as “The Little Liberty Bell” or “The Cumberland County Libery Bell”.
The tavern is now a New Jersey State
Site and has a bronze plaque on the front.
Harry M. Potter
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