Episode 55: The Liberty Bell

Welcome to Slow American English, the podcast for learners of American English. I’m your host, Karren Tolliver.

This is episode number 55: The Liberty Bell

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Now for the podcast:


It’s hard to think of a more famous symbol of the United States than the Liberty Bell. In addition to the bald eagle, Statue of Liberty, American flag and Uncle Sam, the Liberty Bell stands for freedom – it’s even in the name!

It stands now in Philadelphia, PA, which used to be the capital city of the USA before Washington, DC. You can visit it at Liberty Bell Center near Independence Hall, where the Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

The Liberty Bell has a large crack. Legend says that ringing the bell on the day the Declaration of Independence was signed caused it to crack. Unfortunately that is not true. A magazine writer invented this story.

The bell was made by Philly (short for Philadelphia) metalworkers John Pass and John Stow. They melted down a defective bell to make this one in the early 1750s. It was installed in the State House (capitol) in Philadelphia. It was rung to call legislators and citizens to meetings.

An inscription is written on the bell, which says, “Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all inhabitants thereof.” A second inscription says, “By order of the Assembly of the Province of Pensylvania for the State House in Philada.” (‘Philada’ was a short form of ‘Philadelphia’.) A third inscription reads, “Pass and Stow/MDCCLIII.” The last part is the year 1753 in Roman numerals.

Although specific details are unknown, the bell developed a small crack probably around the 1840s. To repair it, a larger crack was created, but the repair failed. A second crack also appeared shortly after that, ruining the bell forever. It could never be rung again.

The bell was called the State House Bell until the mid-1800s. But even before it was called the Liberty Bell, abolitionists, women’s suffragists and Civil Rights leaders were inspired by the first inscription on the bell. In fact, it is said that people fighting for the end of slavery came up with the name ‘Liberty Bell’.

More Liberty Bell facts:

  • It weighs about 2,080 pounds.

  • It is made of bronze.

  • The original musical note of the bell was E-flat.

  • The bell rang to mark the signing of the Constitution.

  • During the Revolutionary War, the bell was taken from Philadelphia and hidden in a church in Allentown, PA. It was moved to prevent the British from finding it and melting it down for weapons.

  • It was rung to mark the deaths of George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and other Founding Fathers.

  • It was last rung on Washington’s birthday in 1846.

  • Every Fourth of July, descendants of the signers of the Declaration of Independence gently tap the Liberty Bell 13 times in honor of the patriots from the original 13 states.

  • Every Martin Luther King Day, the bell is gently tapped in honor of this great Civil Rights leader.

  • Every state capitol received a copy of the Liberty Bell in 1950 as part of a fundraiser by the US Treasury Department. These copies don’t have cracks.

  • Normandy, France, also has a copy of the bell. It was created in 2004 for the 60th anniversary of D-Day in WWII, which was in 1944. It was the day Allied forces landed in Normandy to eventually end the war.

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That’s the podcast for this time. Slow American English is written and produced by Karren Tolliver. Copyright 2019. All rights reserved.

For a free transcript and to subscribe to the podcast, visit www.SlowAmericanEnglish.net. You can also subscribe via any podcast feed reader.

Theme music for this podcast is written and performed by SW Campbell and used by permission. Find more music by this artist at www.Soundclick.com/swcampbell.

This has been Slow American English. I’m Karren Tolliver. Thank you for listening.

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