Yes, it’s the Liberty Bell, photographed from underneath, with the lights shining through the crack.
I guess it was a lot more obvious than I thought. No one guessed wrong.
This is the bell that resided in the bell tower of the Pennsylvania Statehouse, what we now call Independence Hall. It is the bell that was rung to proclaim the Declaration of Independence in 1776. The bell was cast with several flaws in 1752. It had to be recast shortly after it was delivered, and then cast a third time. It cracked in the early 19th century (legend has it cracking while pealing during the funeral of Chief Justice John Marshall — I won’t vouch for that story). It was last rung in 1846, on the anniversary of George Washington’s birth.
Enshrined in art and legend, the bell appeared on the reverse of the Franklin half-dollars (when was the last time you saw any 50-cent piece in circulation?). It was put on tour after the Civil War in an effort to get the nation reunited around old symbols (but, considering it was first called “the Liberty Bell” by early abolitionist groups, one might wonder how effective was the tour). When I visited it in the 1990s, the bell rested in its own pavilion about a half-block away from Independence Hall. Renovations of the historic site included construction of a new museum, which required the bell to be moved again.
Preservation and restoration experts wondered whether the bell would well survive the move. So the National Science Foundation (NSF) was called in to study the bell and determine whether it could take the stress of the move. NSF’s press release said the bell passed its “stress test.” The story of the measurement is well told, and may be interesting to students. The writer at NSF put in a lot of the history.
The photo is from the NSF team that did the study; it shows the inside of the bell and part of the “spider” support system that helps hold the bell together and support display.
My probably faulty recollection is that we studied the story of the Liberty Bell each year in grades 1 through 5, which in my case includes schools in the states of Idaho and Utah. My baseline U.S. history tests over the past four years show that about half the students I had, in grades 7, 10, 11 and 12, could not identify the bell or tell why it is revered in U.S. history.
Every reader here gets an “A.”
Other Liberty Bell information:
- The sister to the Liberty Bell now resides at Villanova University.
- The first “Forever Stamp” features the Liberty Bell.
- The bell rings E-flat.Just when the third cast bell cracked is disputed.
- The bell’s yoke is made of American elm, a tree that is threatened with extinction by Dutch elm disease.
- Replicas of the bell were cast in France and presented to each state in 1950 as part of a government bonds drive. Utah’s replica resides just outside the chamber of the Utah House of Representatives; according to Answers.com, New York’s replica bell “hangs in the lobby of the Kew Gardens Hills branch of the Queens County Savings Bank in New York City, a building that is a replica of Independence Hall.”
- Other famous replicas: In neon, at Citizens Bank Park, home of the Philadelphia Phillies; now gone, in plastic, twice life-size, at Ameriquest Field in Arlington, Texas, home of the Texas Rangers (Ameriquest became insolvent in 2006, and the park was renamed and the bell removed); in Liberty Square, Magic Kingdom, DisneyWorld Park in Buena Vista, Florida; in the Rotunda of the Academic Building at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas, honoring A&M alumni who served in World War II (this is probably the state replica from 1950).
- Gus Grissom’s Mercury Project spacecraft was named the “Liberty Bell 7;” it sank upon Grissom’s return from orbit, but the capsule was recovered in 1999.
- The bell was originally cast by Whitechapel Bell Foundry in England, which also cast the bell in London famously known as Big Ben, which also is cracked. Whitechapel Hand Bells are used by handbell ringers around the world.
- In April 2001, Mitchell Guiliat broke through barriers and struck the bell several times with a hammer. He was trying to ring it, not damage it, he said later. He got a nine-month sentence in prison, 5-years probation, and a fine of $7,093.
- More “triviata.“