When you visit the Philadelphia State House (AKA Independence Hall), you will be told the story of the Liberty Bell and it multiple recastings before being hung in the tower behind the hall. You will no doubt hear the bells (now the Centennial Bell) as it chimes on the hour and of course most photos of the hall show the four iconic clockfaces on the tower.  Few people, however, notice the original clock on the west side of the building facing Congress Hall (see picture below).

In 1753, Thomas Stretch erected a giant clock at the building’s west end that resembled a tall clock (grandfather clock). The 40-foot-tall limestone base was capped with a 14-foot wooden case surrounding the clock’s face, which was carved by cabinetmaker Samuel Harding.  The clock’s dials were mounted at the east and west ends of the main building connected by rods to the clock movement in the middle of the building.  When the Pennsylvania legislature commissioned the State House Bell (AKA the Liberty Bell), they also ordered another bell from Thomas Lester and Thomas Pack in London.  When this second bell arrived in 1754, it was installed on the roof of the Pennsylvania State house, covered by a shed and connected to the Thomas Stretch clock that had been placed in the attic of Independence Hall. This bell was chimed on the quarter hour by the clock.

The City of Philadelphia sold the clock and bell to St. Augustine’s Roman Catholic Church at 4th and Race Streets in 1829. It burned when rioters destroyed the church in May 1844.  The National Park Service reconstructed the west end clock face and masonry tower in 1973.

Published by Michael Carver

My goal is to bring history alive through interactive portrayal of ordinary American life in the late 18th Century (1750—1799) My persona are: Journeyman Brewer; Cordwainer (leather tradesman but not cobbler), Statesman and Orator; Chandler (candle and soap maker); Gentleman Scientist; and, Soldier in either the British Regular Army, the Centennial Army, or one of the various Militia. Let me help you experience history 1st hand!

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