As for the cracks, the first occurred during its first ring in a test run. It was recast two years later by two local guys, John Stow and John Pass, who took the opportunity to carve their own names into it, which can be seen today. The bell purportedly was rung for several important events, including the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. No one is sure when it rang for the last time, but some claim it was for George Washington’s birthday in 1846, at which point the cracks were so bad that the bell was rendered useless.
Housed in Independence Hall for more than 200 years, it was moved to Liberty Bell Pavilion in 1976 for the bicentennial. In 2003 it was moved again to its current home in the Liberty Bell Center (501 Market St., 215/965-2305; Mon.-Fri. 9am-5pm; free), a modern glass-enclosed mini-museum and multimedia gallery containing documents, images, and a short History Channel film exploring facts and myths surrounding the bell, available in nine languages. The bell’s strategic position offers an uninterrupted view of Independence Hall, making it one of the most photographed spots in the city. On the bell, Pennsylvania is spelled “Pensylvania,” which was one of several acceptable spellings at the time. It is engraved with the message “Proclaim Liberty throughout all the Land unto all the Inhabitants thereof.”
Excerpted from the Third Edition of Moon Philadelphia.