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Reading 3: Going on Tour

The fame of the Liberty Bell spread when it was taken directly to the people in a series of trips to world’s fairs and expositions in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The first request for the Liberty Bell to travel outside Philadelphia was made in November 1884, by the Special Commissioner for the World’s Industrial and Cotton Centennial Exposition in New Orleans, Louisiana. The commissioner thought it was important to have the bell in New Orleans for the opening of the exposition. He wrote to the Philadelphia City Council for permission and argued that sending the Liberty Bell to New Orleans would:

...meet with all the universal approbation and the heartiest greetings of all the people of the South. Our ancestors fought and bled for the time enduring principles which the bell rang out on July 4, 1776, and, although the bell is the property of the City of Philadelphia, yet are we not co-inheritors of its glories? In the name of those mutually earned glories, we ask you to let it come to New Orleans.

In order to get permission to allow the Liberty Bell to travel, the mayor of Philadelphia introduced the request to the Select and Common councils saying:

The consideration of the subject [sending the bell to New Orleans] demands the setting aside of any sectional or partisan views. If the presence of the Old Bell which rang out the birth of a great republic can be the means, by its presence in New Orleans, in restoring or cementing the same patriotic spirit in the entire nation at this time, it will bring credit and renown to this city, and make evident to the people of the South that the city of Brotherly Love, true to her history, is anxious to aid in the restoration of perfect harmony throughout the nation.

Shortly after Philadelphia’s mayor talked to the Select and Common councils, he received a letter from the mayor of New Orleans which said:

I am sure that its [the Liberty Bell’s] care and safety will be the anxious thought of all our citizens, who, notwithstanding all the reports as to their seditious feelings against the Unity of Our Government are, without fear of contradiction, as affectionate to the traditions of Our Country, the real Republic of the World, and are as true believers in its laws and constitution, in fact, as patriotic Americans, as their more favored brothers of the North.

Citizens of New Orleans signed petitions requesting that the bell be sent to their city. Philadelphia’s Committee on City Property recommended sending the bell to New Orleans providing that three policemen accompany the bell and watch over it at all times. Finally, the Philadelphia Common and Select councils voted in favor of sending the bell to New Orleans.

Questions for Reading 3

1. What conflict was the Exposition Special Commissioner referring to when he talked about fighting and bleeding for the "time enduring principles" of the bell?

2. What date did the commissioner associate with the Liberty Bell?

3. Why did the mayor of Philadelphia ask the council to put aside "sectional or partisan views"?

4. What did Philadelphia's mayor hope to accomplish for the United States by sending the Liberty Bell to New Orleans? What did he hope to accomplish for Philadelphia?

5. What motivation might someone in New Orleans in 1884 have for doing damage to the Liberty Bell? Why did the mayor of New Orleans think it was necessary to refute the idea that anyone in New Orleans might damage the Liberty Bell?

Compiled from John C. Paige with David A. Kimball, "The Liberty Bell: A Special Study," National Park Service, Denver, unpublished manuscript, 1986.

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