In 1876, Philadelphia city officials discussed what role the Liberty Bell should play in the nation’s Centennial festivities. Some wanted to repair it so it could sound at the Centennial Exposition being held in Philadelphia, but the idea was not adopted; the bell’s custodians concluded that it was unlikely that the metal could be made into a bell that would have a pleasant sound, and that the crack had become part of the bell’s character. Instead, a replica dubbed “the Centennial Bell” was sounded at the Exposition grounds on July 4, 1876 and later attached to the clock in the steeple of Independence Hall.
Created to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence – the Centennial bell can be heard today chiming the hours from the tower at Independence Hall. It was originally donated to the hall by Philadelphia philanthropist Henry Seybert and cast by the Meneely-Kimberly Foundry in Troy, New York. Unlike its smaller cousin the Liberty Bell, this bell is intentionally laden with symbolism:
- It weighs 13,000 pounds to represent each of the original thirteen states
- It contains two cannons from the American Revolutionary War, one American and one British cannon used at the Battle of Saratoga
- It contains two cannons from the American Civil War, one Union and one Confederate cannon used at the Battle of Gettysburg
- It features two inscriptions:
- Proclaim Liberty Throughout All the Land Unto All the Inhabitants Thereof, Leviticus 25:10
- Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men, Luke 2:14
Like the Liberty Bell, when the Centennial Bell first rang on July 4, 1876, listeners thought the sound quality was poor. Henry Seybert had it removed from the steeple and shipped back to Troy, New York for recasting. By the end of 1876 workmen placed the recast Centennial Bell in the steeple of Independence Hall where it has been chiming the hours ever since. Unlike the Liberty Bell, then Centennial Bell is not cracked. Unfortunately, because of the complexity in getting to the belfry of Independence Hall, the public can only view the Centennial Bell with special permission from the Park Service but on July 8th they generally take two volunteers up to ring it by hand as the Declaration of Independence is read in the courtyard.