The Liberty Bell, now housed in the Liberty Bell Center in Philadelphia, is one of America’s most iconic treasures. Every year, more than a million people visit it, many of them on student trips to Philadelphia. But how much do you really know about the famous bell? Here are five facts you may not know:
1. The name – Though the bell was cast all the way back in 1752, the name Liberty Bell did not exist during that time and does not refer to the American Revolution’s fight for liberty. In fact, the name was coined in the 1830s by abolitionists, when the bell became a symbol of freedom from slavery.
2. The crack – The bell has received many, many cracks since its construction, some big, some small. As for the famous large crack that remains to this day, no one knows for sure when it was formed. It happened sometime in the early 19th century, and many believe it occurred when the bell was rung after the death of Chief Justice John Marshall in 1835.
3. Dubious rings – After an 1847 short story claimed the Liberty Bell was rung on July 4, 1776 to herald the Second Continental Congress’s vote for independence, many came to believe it as fact. The truth is there was no announcement of the vote on July 4, so the bell couldn’t have been rung to celebrate it. There were however, many bells rung on July 8 to celebrate the reading of the Declaration of Independence, and there’s a good chance the Liberty Bell was one of them.
4. Cold War revival – During the Cold War, the bell once again became a potent symbol of liberty. It was a popular site for protests in the 1960s, and the U.S. government frequently used its image to project America’s dedication to freedom.
5. On the $100 bill – The Liberty Bell is featured prominently in a security feature on the newest $100 bill, released by the U.S. Treasury last October. On the bill’s front, the bell appears in an inkwell, and when you tilt the bill, the bell’s color changes from green to copper.
Bonus Fact: On April 1, 1996, Taco Bell announced that it had bought the Liberty Bell and changed its name to the Taco Liberty Bell. Not surprisingly, people were very angry. Also not surprisingly, it was just an April Fool’s joke. Taco Bell’s sales of tacos, enchiladas and burritos went up by more than a half million dollars that week.